* take nothing for granted    
Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2020

Who is Online

We have 63 guests and one member online

Article Index

 

 

On the morning of May1st 2016 I jumped, or rather slid, out of a plane over Wollongong at 14,000 feet.

It was a tandem jump, meaning that I had an instructor strapped to my back.

 

Striding_confidently_before
Striding Confidently Before Going Up

 

At that height the curvature of the earth is quite evident.  There was an air-show underway at the airport we took off from and we were soon looking down on the planes of the RAAF  Roulette aerobatic display team.  They looked like little model aircraft flying in perfect formation.  

 

1400_feet_above_Wollongong 1400_feet_above_Wollongong

14,000 feet above Wollongong

Rouletts
RAAF  Roulettes - two hands full of toy planes seen from above.

 

My one-time place of work, the Bluescope steelworks, looked a brown smudge and the outer harbour like a puddle in the embrace of the slender arms of its breakwaters, snatched from the Tasman Sea.

We were to be second out but were gazumped.  We settled for third. 

Our feet went out first, legs tucked tucked under the plane and as soon as our knees bent under we lost balance and were effectively pulled out the door by the slipstream.  After tumbling a couple of times, due to me not holding my head back far enough, we stabilised face down and did those thumbs up; high five; things for the instructor's camera.  It was chilly on my face and my ears ache when they are very cold.  They were soon very cold.  The wind speed is around 200 km/h.  That's terminal velocity face down so the chill factor is quite high.

The freefall seems longer than it is.  There is plenty of time to look around and attempt to smile for the camera.   My instructor waited a bit longer to pop-the-chute than the first two out.   We zoomed past the gazumpers and were first down. 

Plummeting towards earth face down at 200 km/h should be terrifying but somehow it's not.  The experience could be better described as captivating. No wonder some wait too long to pop-their-chute.  Objects below: trees; cars; houses; are so tiny and the wind is so powerful that it doesn't seem real somehow.  The rational brain knows that there is a main parachute and a reserve and the subconscious brain simply rejects it as being very high in the same way as one might be cautious at the edge of a cliff.   The only fright I experienced was a second or two of moderate terror at being pulled from a plane by my feet and finding us both tumbling, apparently out of control.  Once stable I experienced no fear at all.  I could liken it to recovering successfully from a high speed skid when driving. A sort of elation swept over me that things were stable again.

It was an amazing experience yet I would just as soon have popped a bit earlier, to my taste the parachute part was not long enough.

To quote from the promotional material: From 14,000 feet, the freefall lasts approximately 65 seconds followed by a parachute ride of 5-7 minutes depending on the number of turns done while in the air.   I will take their word for it.

The parachute ride is extremely slow and comfortable after the freefall.  By that time you are closer to the ground and everything below is more interesting. Like the view out of a plane after take-off.  The instructors do a bit of turning and scooting about.  It's rather nice to be like superman:  'Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.'

 

Coming in to land Striding_Elated_After
1400_feet_above_Wollongong 1400_feet_above_Wollongong

Coming in to land

 

With the ram-air parachute they use and a 30 knot breeze we were more or less stationary relative to points below into the wind, falling directly towards them, but doing 60 relative to the ground with the wind. The rectangular ram-air parachutes allow amazing precision when setting down, a quantum leap from the old circular ones my father had in his WW2 RAF Hurricane that may well have landed the user in a tree or a lake.

People generally want to do it again. I certainly wouldn't say no but once was adequate to satisfy my curiosity. Bungee Jumping next?

On the promotional sites you will read that it is an amazingly safe sport, compared to say scuba diving, because only one in 150,000 jumps ends in death.  Some say its safer than driving a car.  But there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.  If someone got killed every 150,000 times someone drove off in a car, or travelled 14,000 feet, the road toll would be horrendous.  Nevertheless I'm happy to believe that it's safer than skiing black runs and accidents usually avoid all that unpleasant business of recovering in hospital. 

Skydiving is a great experience.  I can recommend it.

 

 


    Have you read this???     -  this content changes with each opening of a menu item


Travel

USA - middle bits

 

 

 

 

 

In September and October 2017 Wendy and I took another trip to the United States where we wanted to see some of the 'middle bits'.  Travel notes from earlier visits to the East coast and West Coast can also be found on this website.

For over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations. This involved six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving on America's excellent National Highways and in between on many not so excellent local roads and streets.

We had decided to start in Chicago and 'head on down south' to New Orleans via: Tennessee; Georgia; Louisiana; and South Carolina. From there we would head west to: Texas; New Mexico; Arizona; Utah and Nevada; then to Los Angeles and home.  That's only a dozen states - so there are still lots of 'middle bits' left to be seen.

During the trip, disaster, in the form of three hurricanes and a mass shooting, seemed to precede us by a couple of days.

The United States is a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible. So these notes have turned out to be long and could easily have been much longer.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Password

 

 

 

 

How I miss Rio.  Rio de Janeiro the most stunningly picturesque city on Earth with its dark green mountains and generous bays, embelezado with broad white, sandy beaches.  Rio forever in my heart.   Rio my a minha pátria, my homeland, where I spent the most wonderful days of my life with linda, linda mãe, my beautiful, beautiful mother. Clambering up Corcovado Mountain together, to our favela amongst the trees.

Thinking back, I realise that she was not much older than I was, maybe fifteen years.  Who knows?

Her greatest gift to me was English. 

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Luther - Father of the Modern World?

 

 

 

 

To celebrate or perhaps just to mark 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his '95 theses' to a church door in Wittenberg and set in motion the Protestant Revolution, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been running a number of programs discussing the legacy of this complex man featuring leading thinkers and historians in the field. 

Much of the ABC debate has centred on Luther's impact on the modern world.  Was he responsible for today or might the world still be stuck in the 'middle ages' with each generation doing more or less what the previous one did, largely within the same medieval social structures?  In that case could those inhabitants, obviously not us, still live in a world of less than a billion people, most of them working the land as their great grandparents had done, protected and governed by an hereditary aristocracy, their mundane lives punctuated only by variations in the weather and occasional wars between those princes?

Read more ...

Terms of Use                                           Copyright