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The word ‘bungee’ first appeared around 1930 as the name for a rubber eraser. The word ‘bungy’ (as used by A. J. Hackett) is defined as: “Kiwi slang for an Elastic Strap”. Cloth-covered rubber cords with hooks on the ends have been available for decades under the generic name ‘bungee cords’.
In the 1950s David Attenborough and a BBC film crew brought back footage of the “Land divers” of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. Young men, with vines tied to their ankles, jumped from tall wooden platforms as a test of their courage and passage into manhood.
The first modern bungy jumps were made in 1979 by the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club from the 250-foot Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. The jumpers were arrested shortly after, but continued with jumps in the U.S.A. from the Golden Gate and Royal Gorge bridges. This last jump was sponsored by and televised on the American program, “That’s Incredible” and spread the concept worldwide. By 1982 dare-devils were jumping from mobile cranes and hot air balloons and putting on commercial displays.
Commercial bungy jumping began with the New Zealander, A.J. Hackett, who made his first jump from Auckland’s Greenhithe Bridge in 1986. During the following years Hackett performed a number of jumps from bridges and other structures, including the Eiffel Tower. He built up public interest in the sport and opened the world’s first permanent commercial bungy site, the Kawarau Bridge Bungy, at Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand. Hackett remains one of the largest commercial operators with operations in several countries.
Despite the inherent danger of jumping from a great height, millions of successful jumps have taken place since 1980. Bungy operators follow strict safety standards and double check calculations and fittings for every jump. A J. Hackett’s world-renowned ‘Bungy’ brand has become a New Zealand icon and exemplifies all things ‘Kiwi’.
Several million people have done a bungy jump in the past 20 years. Have you?