Posts Tagged ‘canada’

Notable Daredevil Stunts at Niagara Falls

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Annie Edson Taylor, aka "Queen of the Mist", was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive.

First and foremost, do not try any of these ridiculous stunts. It’s illegal – it could cost you up to a $10,000 fine and banishment from Canada – and you would likely get hurt very, very badly.

That being said, here is our brief list of ridiculously silly and dangerous daredevil attempts at Niagara Falls. For the full list of absurdity from the mid-1800s to 1951, click here.

  1. 1. The first tightroper to cross Niagara River was “The Great Blondin.” Jean François Gravelet-Blondinwas a 31-year-old professional European circus performer. At the first of his many tightrope walks over the river, Gravelet made a spectacle on June 30, 1859, by pausing dramatically with his balancing pole and then did a sudden back somersault on the rope. He later crossed the river on his rope while riding a bicycle, walking blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow, and even cooked an omelet in the center. He lived a long and happy life, passing away in England at the age of 73.
  2. Some swimmers made the attempt to go over the falls, with tragically mixed results. Captain Matthew Webb had already conquered swimming the English Channel when he made his attempt on July 2, 1883. He failed, and his body was recovered four days later down river in Lewiston, New York. Three years later, a policeman from Boston named William Kendall made it—with the help of a very effective life preserver.
  3. The last tightrope performances at the Falls were by 21-year-old James Hardy in July of 1896. His performances were the last permitted at the site.
  4. The first person to ever make the attempt in a barrel was actually a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor. She climbed into an air-tight wooden barrel with her cat on October 24, 1901. The air pressure inside was compressed to 30 p.s.i. with a bicycle pump, and when she emerged, she was simply bruised and battered – and expected fame and fortune. She instead died in poverty. The cat was fine.
  5. Bobby Leach attempted the drop in a steel barrel in 1911, but ended up breaking both kneecaps and his jaw. Yet, he still survived. Years later he traveled to New Zealand, where he slipped on an orange peel and died from complications due to gangrene.

People still request to make attempts to cross Niagara River and the Falls even today. In November of 1996, the Niagara Parks Commission denied a request for a proposed skywalk by Jay Cochrane. Commission Chairman Gary Burroughs announced, “The net effect of this type of event is to encourage less qualified individuals to perform stunts or feats that put not only themselves at risk, but also those who may be involved in their rescue.”

Were these people brave, insane, or plain old stupid? Share your thoughts below.

To see how daring (or stupid) these people were, you must see Niagara Falls for yourself on The Great Lakes: A Voyage through North America’s Inland Sea. Save $700 per person off your cabin price for Categories E-AA. Also, save $2,000 per person off your cabin price on Categories VS and PHS.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About the Great Lakes

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
The American Falls of Niagara

The American Falls of Niagara

Those of us who grew up near the Great Lakes already know the basics.

They consist of Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan Ontario, and Superior. They provide 20% of the world’s fresh water, and are the largest grouping of freshwater lakes on the Earth’s surface. And, of course, the lake effect snow from these waterways create endless frustration every winter.

Then there are those of us who like to have a little more advanced knowledge…

  1. Lake Erie is the shallowest lake at 210 ft while Lake Superior is the deepest at 1,332 ft.
  2. Each lake has Native American roots to its name, except Lake Superior. While they are all either Ojibwe, Wyandot, or Iroquois names, Lake Superior is actually an English translation of French term “lac supérieur” (“upper lake”), referring to its position above Lake Huron. But the Ojibwe have their own name for it and call it “Gitchigumi.
  3. Travel through the Great Lakes began in 1844 and expanded in 1857, when palace steamers carried passengers and cargo around the Great Lakes. Tourism really picked up throughout the 20th century when large luxurious passenger steamers sailed from Chicago all the way to Detroit and Cleveland.
  4. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society in Paradise, Michigan explores notable historic maritime sites ranging from the infamous SS Edmund Fitzgerald to recently discovered 1902 ship Cyprus – which sank on its second voyage carrying iron ore from Superior, Wisconsin to Buffalo, New York.
  5. The redheaded stepchild of the Great Lakes is Lake Champlain, which was briefly labeled as the sixth great lake by the Federal government on March 6, 1998. But after much media and public ridicule for being too small to be “Great,” the offer was rescinded on March 24, 1998.

Did you grow up near a Great Lake? What are your favorite memories? Share Below.

Join us on the luxorious Clelia II and explore the Great Lakes in all their splendor.

Save $700 per person off your cabin price for Categories E-AA. Also, save $2,000 per person off your cabin price on Categories VS and PHS.

* This ship is no longer in use. For the most up to date ship information, please see our ship page.

 

We’re One Year Old!

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

 

A baby mountain gorilla celebrates his birthday in his own way.

It’s the 1st birthday of our Smithsonian Journeys blog! In honor of our big day, here’s an anthropological look at birthday traditions in the United States and around the world.

  • In Russia, children receive a birthday pie instead of an what we know as a birthday cake.
  • In Canada, the birthday kid’s nose is greased with butter. As a result, the child is too slippery for bad luck to catch him.
  • In Vietnam, everyone celebrates at the dawn of the New Year, but the actual day of birth is not celebrated. Each child receives a red envelope with “Lucky Money” to celebrate their aging, and when they are asked their age they respond by using the appropriate symbol to the lunar birth year.

Then there is the United States, where we have parties where the birthday girl or boy receive a cake with candles, gifts, and there is the traditional singing of “Happy Birthday.” This tradition actually started in Europe many centuries ago, when people believed that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthday.  To protect the person, friends and family would visit to bring good wishes, which evolved into today’s birthday party. Giving gifts chased off evil spirits even more effectively.

We want to thank you for reading our blog and commenting this past year! There’s always something to write about when you travel as much as we do.

What cultures do you want to see us write about on the blog? Share below.

Don’t know where to start? Take a look at our Around the World by Private Jet tour.

Canada by Train – The Great Adventure

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Barry Lane is a Canadian historian with special interests in British colonial and maritime history. Below, he talks about the excitement of traveling on the Rocky Mountaineer on the final leg of our Canadian Rail Adventure. Click here to learn more about Barry and traveling through Canada with him.

Board The Rocky Mountaineer on the final days of your trip westward across Canada.

Board The Rocky Mountaineer on the final days of your trip westward across Canada.

The climax of the rail trip for the passengers is always the last two days, as we cross through the mountain ranges and interior plateaus of British Columbia. The double-decker dome rail cars give us an incredible viewpoint for the endlessly changing scenery, and the space to relax and walk around so that we can share this experience with our new-found friends. It is here that we pass through the famous Spiral Tunnels in the Kicking Horse Pass, constructed to offset some of the highest railway grades in world history.

Trains passing through the tunnels turn twice in quick succession through 360 degrees and lose over 100 feet in total elevation. In some cases, as they exit one of the tunnels, the crews of longer trains can actually see the rear of their train still entering the opening of the tunnel above. Directly above us as we enter the tunnels are towering Mount Stephen and Cathedral Mountain, covered with snow and glacier ice. Far below through the forests, down to the valley floor, one can see the white foam of the Kicking Horse River and the Trans Canada Highway which follows along it.

This is one of the finest views in the Rockies, and each time we go through I cannot help but be awed by the dramatic beauty of the area and the accomplishments of the men who first built the railway through Canada’s deep wilderness. Their contribution lives on in an extraordinary rail journey that reflects Canada’s true spirit.

Click here to read Barry’s previous entry about his past experience on our Canadian Adventure by Rail.

Click here to learn more about tours to Canada and our rail tours.

An Industry Pass to the Toronto International Film Festival

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

If you’re a movie buff, there’s almost nothing more exciting on this side of the Atlantic than the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off each September. We have coveted industry passes, and there are still some available for a lucky few. In the meantime, check out this video with Rory Culkin and Emma Roberts from Lymelife, winner of the 2008 Prize of the International Critics Award from last year’s Festival.

Click here to learn more about our insider’s advantage on our Toronto International Film Festival Journey.