Posts Tagged military parachute jumping

Would You Jump From 33 Feet Or Chicken Out?

This psychological experiment shows people confronting their fears of height and injury. Paid just $30 to participate, only 30% of the 67 subjects chickened out. Amazing to me that so many actually jumped. Very amusing to watch scared people reason with themselves out loud and make their eventual choices. What would you do?

Growing up in Florida and working at hotels during high school, I was proficient at diving off a three-meter board (10 feet) and doing somersaults and other tricks. I can’t recall if I ever jumped from a higher platform. I did parachute jump out of airplanes at 1250 feet in the army, when I was 21. Not sure what I would do today. Below is the NY Times article that explains all.

Our objective in making this film was something of a psychology experiment: We sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt. We’ve all seen actors playing doubt in fiction films, but we have few true images of the feeling in documentaries. To make them, we decided to put people in a situation powerful enough not to need any classic narrative framework. A high dive seemed like the perfect scenario.

Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high. We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate — which meant climbing up to the diving board and walking to its edge. We were as interested in the people who decided to climb back down as the ones jumping.

We filmed it all with six cameras and several microphones. It was important for us not to conceal the fact that this was an arranged situation, and thus we chose to show the microphones within the frame. Ultimately, about 70 percent of those who climbed did jump. We noticed that the presence of the camera as well as the social pressure (from those awaiting their turn beside the pool) pushed some of the participants to jump, which made their behavior even more interesting.

In our films, which we often call studies, we want to portray human behavior, rather than tell our own stories about it. We hope the result is a series of meaningful references, in the form of moving images. “Ten Meter Tower” may take place in Sweden, but we think it elucidates something essentially human, that transcends culture and origins. Overcoming our most cautious impulses with bravery unites all humankind. It’s something that has shaped us through the ages.

‘Ten Meter Tower’ appeared at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. It is part of a series produced by independent filmmakers who have received support from the nonprofit Sundance Institute.

Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson are documentary filmmakers based in Gothenburg, Sweden, who have worked together since 2013.

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Alps Hiker Jumps Off Cliff

paraglider paragliding


I rode a gondola last week in Austria to 6600 feet to ponder the magnificent view of the Alps and take some summer snaps. As I started walking back to the gondola station, I passed a serious hiker carrying an enormous black, cylindrical backpack, maybe four feet tall and 20 inches in diameter. He totally ignored me on the three-foot wide trail—I thought he was a bit unfriendly, as we were the only two people on the ridge. But I was awed that he was going to camp out for weeks, I thought, and had to plan so carefully, be sure to take enough food, water, countless other supplies along with the tent that was obviously crammed into his bag. I have enough trouble remembering to take a cell phone or pen when I go out for a walk.

When I arrived at the gondola, the clock showed that the next descent wasn’t for 15 minutes, so I decided to go back near the ridge and throw a snowball in July while standing in the white patch of snow just near the cliff. Imagine my surprise to see this “hiker” in black maneuvering a large curved wing made of parachute-like material that was attached to his harness somehow and also by maybe 20 lines or risers half going to each hand for controlling the wing.

The wind was somewhat brisk, and I took three or four videos of him trying to organize his wing and keep the lines untangled. But one end of the wing kept crashing to the ground. Finally he looked away from the edge, toward the wing, inflated the fabric, then reversed his direction by 180 degrees so his back was to the wing, and he ran off the cliff. This is called a reverse launch, and the sport is called paragliding. Breathtaking.

I have to admit there is a difference between watching some life-threatening, death-defying activity on TV or in photos and seeing it right up close. Even for me, after parachuting in the army. I am still wondering precisely how you learn the skill, because there must be a way to practice parts of it in advance. And what if the wind is too strong and drags you off the mountain in the opposite direction from where you intend to go?

flying in the Alps


Anyway, this guy made it, and it was very exciting to watch. He fell off the cliff and out of site until a thermal (patch of hot rising air) picked him right up, and he was high above me. You could hear a slight whistling as he passed close by…right with the birds who were soaring effortlessly as well.

Although thermals are perfect in this sport, I was reminded of my first week at Fort Benning Georgia in 1963, where I went to jump school. In combat jumps, the planes are stacked, so that those in front fly lower than the ones behind, presuming that by the time the second or third wave of jumpers is out of their planes, the earlier jumpers are way down toward—or on—the ground in the designated drop zone. Unfortunately when I arrived, we heard how the first jumpers met thermals and were taken up, rather than down, and were shredded and killed by the propellers of the following waves of planes. Very gruesome, and just for training, not even combat.

After people heard that I had jumped, they often said how brave I was. But it was relatively safe…the stats proved that fewer people were injured or died from parachuting (percentage-wise or when considering miles traveled) than from driving cars (see details below). Read the rest of this entry »

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