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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.

 

 


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Travel

South Korea & China

March 2016

 

 

South Korea

 

 

I hadn't written up our trip to South Korea (in March 2016) but Google Pictures gratuitously put an album together from my Cloud library so I was motivated to add a few words and put it up on my Website.  Normally I would use selected images to illustrate observations about a place visited.  This is the other way about, with a lot of images that I may not have otherwise chosen.  It requires you to go to the link below if you want to see pictures. You may find some of the images interesting and want to by-pass others quickly. Your choice. In addition to the album, Google generated a short movie in an 8mm style - complete with dust flecks. You can see this by clicking the last frame, at the bottom of the album.

A few days in Seoul were followed by travels around the country, helpfully illustrated in the album by Google generated maps: a picture is worth a thousand words; ending back in Seoul before spending a few days in China on the way home to OZ. 

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

My car owning philosophies

 

 

I have owned well over a dozen cars and driven a lot more, in numerous countries. 

It seems to me that there are a limited number of reasons to own a car:

  1. As a tool of business where time is critical and tools of trade need to be carried about in a dedicated vehicle.
  2. Convenient, fast, comfortable, transport particularly to difficult to get to places not easily accessible by public transport or cabs or in unpleasant weather conditions, when cabs may be hard to get.
  3. Like clothes, a car can help define you to others and perhaps to yourself, as an extension of your personality.
  4. A car can make a statement about one's success in life.
  5. A car can be a work of art, something re-created as an aesthetic project.
  6. A car is essential equipment in the sport of driving.
Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Australia's carbon tax

 

 

Well, the Gillard government has done it; they have announced the long awaited price on carbon.  But this time it's not the highly compromised CPRS previously announced by Kevin Rudd.  

Accusations of lying and broken promises aside, the problem of using a tax rather than the earlier proposed cap-and-trade mechanism is devising a means by which the revenue raised will be returned to stimulate investment in new non-carbon based energy. 

Read more ...

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