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"Challenging People and Gravity since 1986"

Looking into commercial bungy cord technology.

Amanda O'Brien

on 31 March 2014

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Transcript of "Challenging People and Gravity since 1986"

Commercial Bungy Cord
Legend has it that a woman from Vanuatu ran to escape from her husband, Tamalie, hundreds of years ago. She managed to make her way up a tall tree, followed by her husband. With vines tied to her ankles, she taunted her husband, asking him to join her in her leap.
After calling him a coward, she leapt from the tree landing safely at the bottom. Not realising that the vines saved her, Tamalie leapt after her, only to fall to his death.
This then became a tradition in Vanuatu with men leaping from tall structures in order to welcome in a good yam harvesting season.
Substantial testing was performed on latex rubber cords with the help of Auckland University.
The cord was able to stretch 6.7 times its length before it reached breaking point.
At only four times its length, the cord only reached 15 percent of its capacity.
These findings set the formula that is used in bungy jumping today: height divided by four.
The thickness of the cord also needs to be different for different weights.
“There were some pretty major unknowns. How long does a bungy cord last? What affects it? Does it vary at height? Does the way you jump make a difference? How much space do you need to allow for rebounds? We were very much in the dark’ (Hackett & Aldworth, 2006, p. 20)
On June 26, 1987, Hackett bungy jumped from the Eiffel Tower without permission. This one jump set the tone for the future of adventure tourism in New Zealand and throughout the world.
Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club
Right from the outset, commercial bungy jumping has faced political scrutiny. With no guidelines to whether bungy jumping was legal or not, Hackett walked the fine line of the law with his first few experimental jumps. Often encountering law enforcement on his jumps, the response from these officials would make or break the future of tourism. Fortunately, due to the nature of his activity, it was unclear to whether any laws were actually being broken. In general, the officials that Hackett did encounter were so astounded by what he was doing; he managed to talk himself out of any trouble.
Political implications later became more evident when attempting to set up a commercial site. The Department of Conservation (DOC) needed a lot of convincing in order to secure the Kawarau Bridge as a jump site, and initially only a one month license was received.
Hackett’s deal with DOC included paying out five percent of the new business’ earnings towards the restoration of the Kawarau Bridge. After the success of many jumps and the extension of their license, “the Kawarau Bridge site still donates a generous proportion of its turnover to DOC” (Hackett & Aldworth, 2006, p. 87). This contribution back to the environment has enabled DOC to complete many projects throughout New Zealand.
In addition to bringing DOC onboard with this new extreme sport, Codes of Practice were required to be written up in order to ensure the safety of the operation. This is now referred to as the AS/NZS5848, “the standard operating procedure for bungy sites” (Hackett & Aldworth, 2006, p. 97)
The industry has a hidden market, with the need for accommodation, eateries, souvenir shops, and more to cater for the influx of tourists. This, in turn, employs more locals, further contributing to the social welfare of New Zealand citizens. While not all of this can be attributed to Hackett’s innovation, it certainly was a major stepping stone towards this growth.
The seven New Zealand operations that fall under the AJ Hackett International organisation employ many people; however this is just the tip of the iceberg.
New Zealand’s identity has quickly become one of adventure. The culture of New Zealanders’ as a collective is one of bravery and willingness to give it a go. Hackett’s innovation of the commercial bungy cord not only exemplifies this persona, it has also expanded it, encouraging New Zealanders to step outside of their comfort zone and achieve something beyond their wildest dreams.
Alongside this, the contribution that AJ Hackett International makes to New Zealand society, economically, has social benefits too; increasing quality of life not only for domestic holiday makers but for employees as well.
AJ Hackett is a name that is associated with bungy jumping worldwide. His determination to bring such an exhilarating experience to anyone who was willing turned very quickly to international success. Inspired by historical rituals, and further encouraged by Oxford University radicals, Hackett developed the first commercial bungy cord. Through some investigation of materials and much experimentation, the first commercial bungy jumps began in 1988, blossoming into AJ Hackett International, as it trades today. Economic, political, environmental, social, and cultural values all had various affects on the development of this innovation. New Zealand is now internationally recognised for adventure tourism, partially due to Hackett’s enthusiasm and dedication, and he continues - “Challenging People and Gravity since 1986” (AJ Hackett International, 2010).
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