On Friday, June 15, tightrope artist Nik Wallenda successfully crossed from the U.S. side of Niagara Falls to the Horseshoe Falls in Ontario, reported The New York Times.
The seventh-generation member of the famed "Flying Wallendas" family of aerialists trained for the daring 1,800-foot walk for weeks in the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel parking lot, where firefighters blasted their high-pressure hoses into a wind machine to mimic the falls' powerful mist, reported The Globe and Mail.
The performer balanced on the two inch-diameter steel cable in special elk-skin moccasins made by his mother. The suede-like soles become stickier when wet, said the 33-year-old father of three. Wallenda said he has anticipated walking over the Niagara Falls gorge ever since his first visit at age six.
ABC dedicated three hours to coverage on Wallenda, including a segment featuring Wallend'a previous world records and family legacy, as well the full 40 minutes of his Niagara Falls stunt. The network netted 13.1 million viewers between 10:30 to 11 p.m. as he finished his walk—its highest ratings in five years, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings and ABC's own research.
Because ABC covered a portion of the cost of the event, Wallenda reluctantly complied with the network's insistence he wear a harness. Wallenda feared being tethered in would hinder his movement. He openly disdained the devise, saying he felt like a "jackass" for wearing it. The network aired with a five-second delay to avoid broadcasting a potential injury or death. The Wallenda family is far from invincible. After a human pyramid collapsed at the 1962 Detroit's State Fair Coliseum, two family members died and a third was paralyzed. In another stunt-related accident not long after, a sister-in-law and son-in-law both died. Even his famous great-grandfather Karl met his death during a performance—in 1978 in Puerto Rico.