Thursday, March 20, 2008

Going over the top

On the afternoon of October 24, 1901, several thousand people watched as a large wooden barrel careered through violent rapids towards Niagara's Horseshoe Falls. Swept along by the current, the cask disappeared over the edge. Seconds later the barrel rose up to the surface in the calmer waters 54 m (160 ft) below: it had survived its battering. And miraculously, for the fist time in Niagara's long history of daredevils, so had its passenger.

Strapped and cushioned inside, school teacher Anna Edson Taylor had just celebrated her 43rd birthday with a death-defying plunge into the history books. Taylor was shocked and badly shaken and had a gash in her head; but she was alive, conscious, and within a few days had fully recovered.

Anna Taylor's bravery did not bring her the cascade of riches she had hoped, and she died penniless in 1921. She is buried in a 'stunters' section of Niagara Falls' Oakwood cemetery, remembered still as the first person - and only woman ever - to survive the Niagara fall. Her advice to potential imitators was: 'Don't try it!'


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