Sunday, June 17, 2012

Small trip on the tightrope of history


A 23-year-old Italian woman, Maria Spelterina was the only woman to cross the Niagara gorge on a tightrope. In 1876, she walked backwards, put a paper bag over her head, and wore peach baskets on her feet to inject some drama into her crossings - note the lack of a safety harness source.

ABC borrow a report from AFP/Reuters about Nik Wallenda's recent tightrope walk across Niagara Falls (with a safety harness) that includes the following statement:

"Since the Great Blondin took his high-wire walk, a ban has been in place on similar stunts over the famed falls. Wallenda waged a two-year crusade to convince U.S. and Canadian officials to let him try the feat."

The Great Blondin, (Charles Blondin or  Jean-Fran├žois Gravelet) crossed the Niagara River on a tight rope below the falls in June 1859 (see a contemporary, report in the Sydney Morning Herald HERE). Contrary to ABC's report, there were a number of other tightrope walks over the Niagara Gorge since Blondin's and the "ban*" has in fact been in place, not since Blondin's walk in 1859 but according the Niagara Parks Commission since July 1896 when James Hardy, crossed the gorge on a wire.

ABC's neglect in picking up and re-producing errors in the AFP/Reuters piece compounded when this February 2012 report with the photo above is taken into account: Maria Spelterini walks a tightrope over the Niagara Gorge. The date quite clear in that caption. But then we know ABC News has a disregard for historical accuracy.

*The Niagara Parks Commission stateNPC has ruled that it will consider proposals by stunting professionals no more than once in a generation, or approximately once every 20 years, as a way to pay tribute to the stunting history that helped make Niagara Falls a top global tourism destination.
The Niagara Parks Commission prohibits stunting on all of its properties under the authority granted under Regulations of the Niagara Parks Act. Stunting now carries a maximum fine of $10,000.

Update 12/7/2012: From ABC
Dear Mr Hendrickx,
Thank you for alerting us to the error in the agency copy.
This has since been corrected.

Kind regards,
Stuart Watt
National Editor
ABC News Online

Score +1



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