WHAT HE INVENTED
Carl Boenish worked as an engineer for Hughes Aircraft before quitting to focus on his primary love – skydiving. In 1969, he scored a job with MGM doing “free-fall cinematography” for the film The Gypsy Moths, starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. In 1970, he started his own company – Photo-Chuting Enterprises (see what he did there?) – to produce original skydiving films and shorts.
The idea of jumping off high things for kicks pre-dates Carl Boenish. In 1783, Louis-Sébastian Lenormand tested out a new device called the “parachute” by jumping from an observation tower in Montpellier, France. That technically meets the criteria.
However, Boenish organized and filmed a series of jumps from the El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite on August 18, 1978 that sparked the national interest in BASE Jumping, and in 1981, he coined the term himself. It stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans (bridges) and Earth (rocks), the sorts of things people usually jump off of.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Okay, more specifically, in July of 1984, Boenish went to Norway’s Troll Wall to film a series of BASE Jumps for the TV series “That’s Incredible!” This show was basically YouTube before YouTube.
Boenish’s first jump from the Troll Wall (in Norwegian: Trollveggen!) went well, and at the time, set the Guinness World Record for the highest BASE Jump in history. His second attempt killed him. It’s unknown what precisely went wrong; his body was found two days later by some mountain climbers.