June 15th, 2012
Breathtaking tightrope tricks and high-wire stunts have been part of the Flying Wallenda family for seven generations, and today their good name will be put to the test once more as Nik Wallenda attempts to be the first person to cross Niagara Falls in this daredevil manner since 1896.
The 33-year-old told the New York Times that he is hoping to make a success of the stunt by "stay[ing] focused on the other side."
"I'm facing Niagara Falls - the wind and the mist and the dark and the peregrine falcons," he said on Thursday during preparations for his late-night endeavor.
Wallenda's attempt to cross the Niagara gorge may be the first of its kind in recent years, but it comes in the wake of some pretty impressive feats by his 19th century predecessors.
According to the New York times Jean Francois Gravelet, better known as "the Great Blondin," walked across a tamer part of the gorge, but did once carry his manager on his back. Similarly, female funambulist, Maria Spelterini, on various occasions tightrope-walked across the Niagara Gorge with peach baskets on her feet, blindfolded, or manacled.
Wallenda has also faced some criticism for his safety measures, as he will be tethered to the wire, staying within the requirements of the event broadcasters. Now.msn reports that Wallenda said he would have preferred an untethered walk, but needed a big-money sponsor to help cover the costs.
The two-inch steel cable Wallenda will balance on has been set 60 meters above the 53 meter high Horseshoe falls (one of the falls that form part of Niagara), stretching from the American side to the Canadian. His stunt is expected to start at around 10:30pm tonight and will be broadcast on ABC-TV.