John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
The bridge is the longest and tallest tunnel-to-tunnel bridge ever built. It's a natural magnet for anybody who likes doing improbable things.
The last time I wrote about the canyon-spanning Aizhai Bridge in Hunan Provice, a reader commented that it looked like China's new "#1 suicide destination." While there has not yet been news of any death plunges, thankfully, this wonder of engineering has actually become a destination for a pleasanter activity: BASE jumping.
It's easy to see why. At roughly 3,850 feet long and 1,150 feet high, the bridge is the longest and tallest tunnel-to-tunnel bridge ever built. From every angle, it looks like it shouldn't exist – or should, just as a broken heap of twisted metal at the bottom of the valley. It's a natural magnet for anybody who likes doing improbable things off of intimidating structures.
The bridge's inaugural BASE fest, featuring more than 40 leapers from various countries (and a wire-walker!), is scheduled for September. But one adventurer has already wedged his way into the history books, committing the first-ever dive off the Aizhai in a spectacular fashion. As onlookers on the catwalk maintained a respectful distance, perhaps to encourage him not to jump, he climbed the rails and is quickly in the treacherous embrace of gravity. If you've ever wondered what the wind in your ears sounds like during a free fall, this footage provides the answer: It's like the enraged hiss of a panther magnified 1,000 times through a speaker that's on fire.
I'm still trying to dig up info on who this jumper is. If you know, please add your comment below.