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The Origin of Bungee Jumping, As Told by One of Its Pioneers

Before it became a common bucket list to-do, modern bungee jumping was just something that a few daredevils in New Zealand did for fun. Co-creator Chris Sigglekow recently sat down with the filmmakers at Loading Docs to talk about how the activity evolved over nearly four decades.

In 1989, Sigglekow came up with the idea to remove the exterior sheath from a shock cord, exposing the rubber inside. He then used that as an elastic cable for bridge jumping—an idea that he admits he barely tested. In the video above posted by Great Big Story, Sigglekow says that he only conducted one trial, using a potato sack full of rocks, and it did not go very well.

"It just hit the water, split, dropping all the stones...and that was our test," he says. After that, Sigglekow tried out the new bungee cable himself. He hit the water pretty hard, but luckily he did not suffer the same fate as the sack.

As time went on, the bridges that his crew jumped from got higher and higher, as did the stakes. "Newtonian physics had been thrown out the window," Sigglekow told Loading Docs. He also shares a story about a run-in with the police that sparked media attention and led to the growth of bungee in New Zealand and around the world. Check out the short film above to see actual footage from the earliest jumps and to hear more from Chris Sigglekow.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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