Whirr2005-03-16
Interesting...
Scientists have long been fascinated by what happens to people who fall from great heights without a parachute. Unsurprisingly, most of them get killed; perhaps surprisingly, a few don't. A prime example of the latter was a 17-year-old male who in 1979 leaped off the Golden Gate Bridge from a height of 250 feet. According to one report, "he recount[ed] a slowing of time initially, and mid-fall, when fully realizing the oncoming impact, strove to adjust his attitude to the vertical feet-first position. An almost perfect entry was achieved. Although dazed, he swam to shore" and checked into a hospital, where his worst injury turned out to be several cracked vertebrae...

U.S. Army air force sergeant Alan Magee fell 20,000 feet from an exploding B-17 in 1943 and crashed through the skylight of a French train station. (A lesson emerges: Aim for the skylight.) Though his arm was shattered, he lived too...

Luckiest of all was RAF flight sergeant Nicholas Alkemade, who leaped from his burning bomber in 1944 without a parachute at 18,000 feet. After a 90-second plunge, he crashed through tree branches in a pine forest and landed in 18 inches of snow. His only injuries: scratches, bruises, burns, and, in some accounts, a twisted knee.

--CECIL ADAMS
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