"A gripping lesson in Newton's Three Laws of physics."
(2000) This account is a testament to the intelligence teenagers, who are
prone to recklessness--a fact I should have borne in mind. Six years ago,
on a Sunday afternoon, our gang of five had taken it into our brains that,
since we live near the sea, it would be fun to play on the cliffs.
We took turns riding our bikes up to the cliff edge and braking at the last
possible moment, the object being a typical competition between young
males. The drop to the water was over one hundred feet. After one boy
almost flew off the cliff, we made it 'safer' by tying rope around our
waists, attached to separate pegs anchored securely in the ground. This,
we thought, would avert trouble.
One boy's bike squeaked terribly when he braked, and it was getting on
everyone's nerves. So he took care of the squeak in an ingenious way: he
oiled the brakes. Some of you might already realise that this presents
another problem, but we didn't see it.
When it was his turn, he rode up to the cliff with the ironic cry, "Watch
this!" Indeed we did watch. We watched him apply the brakes, we watched
his expression change to terror, and we watched him disappear from sight as
he sailed over the cliff.
The rope did its job, and halted his descent. But his rope was longer than
the others, and suffered the strain of 60 feet of falling teenager, as did
the waist around which the rope was tied. The impact of stopping broke
several ribs and almost cleaved him in two. Not surprisingly, he fainted.
At the top of the cliff, the four remaining kids telephoned for help, but
the cliff was so remote that we couldn't get through. Instead of running
for help, we decided to winch him up ourselves. We set about digging up
the peg he was attached to. When it finally came free, there was only one
person holding it, and he was pulled over the cliff by the weight of the
Sensibly, he still had his harness on, but the 45-foot drop he endured
mearly knocked this boy out. Meanwhile, the extra 45 feet of rope let
the first boy plunge into the ocean, where he unfortunately drowned.
The last three boys on the cliff summoned help from the Coast Guard. Half
an hour later, a large Sea King helicopter attempted to lift the dangling
boy to safety. By this point, the knot that tied the rope around the boy's
waist had come loose, and he was hanging on for dear life.
Whirling helicopter blades build up a massive amount of static electricity
as they beat against the air. Each helicopter therefore carries a cable to
earth itself after a flight. As that cable approached the boy, he grabbed
for it, heedless of people shouting warnings from the helicopter. When he
did grab ahold of the cable, the electric shock blew him against the cliff,
and he fell into the sea.
Fortunately he did not drown. He was airlifted to hospital, where he made
a full recovery.
Six years later, I still have the scar on my hand where I touched that
earthing cable. I owe my life to the work of the Coast Guard that day.
Thank you, Coast Guard, for helping idiots like me stay alive long enough
to tell the story to other idiots.
Darwin notes, "This is a deadlier version of Clean Brake and Bicycle Blues. Thank you for
sharing your history, Alexander."
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Reference: Eyewitness Account by Alexander Anderson (a psuedonym)