This was no ordinary high-wire act. Four men standing on a wire 35 feet above the ground, linked together with shoulder bars. Above them, another pair of men, also linked with shoulder bars. Above them, a woman standing on a chair!
This assemblage-known as the seven-person chair pyramid, would then inch its way across the high wire suspended above the circus floor. It was the most famous high-wire act in the circus. Do you know who achieved this feat?
None other than the Flying Wallendas.
Karl Wallenda, the patriarch of this daredevil family, was born in Germany in 1905, and by age six, he was already performing in family shows. At 17 Karl began learning high-wire walking and in 1922 he started his own high-wire act.
During one performance in Akron, Ohio, in the thirties Karl and three other performers slipped. All fell to the wire, but a local paper reported that they did it so gracefully. They seemed to be flying, thus the “Flying Wallendas” were born.
It was in 1947 when Karl Wallenda devised his seven-person chair pyramid act described above, his crowning achievement. He performed the act successfully until 1962 when a catastrophic fall left Karl’s son paralyzed.
Daredevils may grab our attention, but there are risks. It’s a lesson you should remember when you work at height. Never become comfortable there. Always think of your safety.
In the years following the catastrophic fall, Karl continued performing his solo “sky walks.” His most famous was a 1,200 foot walk on a high wire 700 feet above the Tallulah Falls Forge in Georgia.
But it was in 1978 when Karl, performing a sky walk in Puerto Rico, fell to his death at age 78. The cause? Mis-connected guy ropes along the high wire.
When you work at height, don’t take risks with your behavior or equipment. Remember…
*Use a body harness connected to a fixed anchor by a lanyard, lifeline or deceleration device. Constantly inspect this equipment for cuts, tears, broken hooks and other problems.
*When needed, strength-tested safety nets should be used.
Working at Height?
Use Proper Fall Protection For the Job
*Copyright 2005 Harkins Safety B200