BASE Jumping: Life Over the Edge

A BASE jumper leaving the Perrine Bridge near Twin Falls, Idaho. (Photo by Chris McNaught via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1981, Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield parachuted off a Houston skyscraper, becoming the first BASE jumpers.

Here are some things you may not have known about BASE jumping.

BASE is an acronym. The letters stand for buildings, antennas, spans and earth, from which the jumpers must parachute or fly off of with a wingsuit. The acronym was coined by filmmaker Carl Boenish and his wife, Jean.

Jumpers earn a BASE number by completing jumps in each of the categories. Smith was BASE No. 1, while Mayfield is BASE No. 2. A separate classification for night jumps was later introduced.

Originally, BASE jumpers used standard skydiving equipment. However, because BASE jumps are usually made from much lower altitudes, specialized equipment has been invented.

During the early days of BASE jumping, the National Parks Service issued permits to jump from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The program lasted just three months and the activity has been banned since 1980. It’s estimated that several hundred illegal jumps take place in the park each year.

It’s estimated that more than 300 BASE jumpers have died since 1981. The fatality and injury rate is about 43 times higher than that of skydiving from an airplane.

In 2006, Daniel G. Schilling set the world record for most BASE jumps in a 24-hour period by jumping from the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, 201 times.

Our question: What river does the Perrine Bridge span?

Today is Revolution and Youth Day in Tunisia, and Royal Thai Armed Forces Day in Thailand.

It’s National Gourmet Coffee Day, National Peking Duck Day, and Thesaurus Day.

It’s the birthday of writer A.A. Milne, who was born in 1882; actor Cary Grant, who was born in 1904; and actor Kevin Costner, who is 62.

This week in 1981, the top song in the U.S. was “Just Like Starting Over” by John Lennon, which we featured a couple of weeks ago. So, instead, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1992, the top song in the U.S. was “Black or White” by Michael Jackson.

The No. 1 movie was “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” while the novel “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: What is the name of the current venue of the New York Philharmonic?

Submit your answer at and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at We’ll have the correct answer on Friday’s episode.



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