On Wednesday, Nik Wallenda officially announced that he has set a date to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
On June 15, Wallenda will set out to cross the gorge on a five-centimeter wire. [The walk will be] probably 30-to-40 minutes long, is what we're thinking. And it really depends; if that wire feels very solid and the weather behaves itself, I might spend more time out there, he said during a news conference on Wednesday morning.
The announcement comes amid a bit of drama. Wallenda was originally scheduled to make the announcement live on ABC's Good Morning America, but it appears the network ditched that arrangement last-minute. Wallenda explained that the network had cited contractual concerns.
Aside from network coverage, the major details of Wallenda's walk have all been worked out. He got the official go-ahead from Canada's Niagara Parks Commission and New York State Parks on Tuesday night. Now, Wallenda and Niagara officials are focused on marketing the event, as well as setting up all necessary safety precautions.
Niagara Falls is actually made up of three separate cascades: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil. Wallenda will be crossing over Horseshoe Falls, which is the largest waterfall and the only one that stretches all the way from the United States to Canada. His journey will take him from Goat Island on the U.S. side to Table Rock in Canada. That's a distance of 1,800 feet.
The stunt will be even more incredible since guy wires, which are auxiliary cables used to stabilize tightropes, are impossible to use in this case due to the width of the Niagara gorge. Wallenda has never completed a walk of this magnitude without those stabilizers.
But Wallenda certainly understands the importance of guy wires; his great-grandfather, the famous Karl Wallenda, fell to his death precisely because his own guy wires were faultily rigged. At least, that's what the family claims was behind the 73-year-old's fall.
Karl Wallenda, born in 1905, came from a long line of circus performers. He was the first in his lineage to master the art of wire-walking, and his family ultimately rose to fame as 'The Flying Wallendas.' The lives of these Wallendas, who came from Germany but performed all around the world, were full of great adventures and terrible tragedies. They specialized in building human pyramids atop wires at death-defying heights, and it was during one of these performances in 1962 that the Wallendas' worst tragedy struck.
Karl Wallenda and six others were forming a high-wire pyramid in front of a rapt audience when one of the men faltered; all but one performer fell off the wire. Two men died upon hitting the ground; another was paralyzed from the waist down. Karl and the rest survived, despite various injuries.
Undaunted, Karl continued performing well into old age. It was during a rather unspectacular promotional stunt in Puerto Rico that the Flying Wallenda patriarch caught some wind on an ill-rigged wire and tumbled off his perch, falling 121 feet to the pavement. The 1978 event was broadcast on live television, and the raw footage can be seen here.
If Nik Wallenda is nervous, he's not showing it. This will be the first Niagara Falls tightrope crossing in over 100 years, and this daredevil says he's excited to be part of something so significant. It's a huge blessing for me, and I'm pursuing a dream and it's all coming to a reality. he said.
He'll be practicing in public for two weeks starting on May 12, and all are welcome watch him hone his skills at the Seneca Niagara Casino.
The June 15 tightrope walk is likely to take place in the evening, though an exact time has not been confirmed.