Bungee jumping is an activity that requires participants to leap from tall structures whilst attached to a bungee cord, also known as a shock cord. It is made of braided elastic strands that form a core and wrapped in polypropylene sheath. The word ‘bungee’ as used by A.J Hackett is Kiwi slang for an elastic strap. The high structure that people jump from is typically a fixed object such as a building, bridge or crane, but it is also possible to dive from a moveable object, like a hot air balloon or even a helicopter which can hover over the ground below.
The adrenaline rush that people get when bungee jumping comes from the feeling of free-falling from quite a considerable height, as well as from the rebound – in which participants bounce back up with the help of the elastic cord. When someone makes the initial jump, the cord stretches and the jumper is flung upwards once more when the cord recoils, and continues to bounce up and down for a while, until all kinetic energy has been exhausted.
The first contemporary bungee jumps were conducted in April of 1979, from the 76 metre Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, by Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club members. The jumpers were soon after arrested, but carried on making jumps throughout the United States, from both the Golden Gate and Royal Golden bridges, with the last jump being sponsored by and televised on the American TV show ‘That’s Incredible’. This helped spread the idea of bungee jumping to all over the world, and by 1982 they were jumping from mobile cranes and hot air balloons.
Bloukrans Bridge, located in the Tsitsikamma region of South Africa, is currently the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, at a spectacular height of 216 metres from the top of the bridge to the river below.