Daredevil Nik Wallenda will be completing his furthest, and possibly most dangerous, tightrope walk to date tonight, March 4, 2020. The wire will be placed more than 1,000 feet above the lava in the Masaya volcano, and the walk is 1,800 feet long. It will take over 25 minutes for Wallenda to cross.
The lava below the high wire is over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The “Volcano Live!” event marks Wallenda’s most dangerous to date.
“The reality is I’m risking my life,” Wallenda told Good Morning America.
Wallenda Will Wear a Gas Mask and Harness
Though Wallenda usually foregoes assistive equipment during his acts, ABC requires him to wear a harness during his volcano walk. He will also be wearing a gas mask or an oxygen mask, as the gases over the volcano are highly variable and are poisonous.
He’ll be making the call as to which mask he wears closer to the time of the walk, since the oxygen tank is very restrictive and he would rather not wear it.
Wallenda told The Wrap that that decision will be based on whether they decide he truly needs the oxygen tank or not. “And if I do, do I run out of oxygen cause it’s the smallest tank we could find that will potentially last 35 minutes? […] let’s say, God forbid something happened, then how long is my oxygen in the tank gonna last? Even if I’m holding on for help, I could run out of oxygen.”
He said the danger is real, and the walk tonight is the most real thing he’s done as far as the risk and danger involved. Even with the oxygen mask and harness, there’s still a risk of death for Wallenda. He told Entertaiment Weekly that he would still possibly die if he fell.
“What I would tell you is the unique aspect of this volcano is the gasses are literally deadly,” he said. So if I were to fall and use that, the chances of my gas mask withstanding or staying on are very slim. And then I would most likely run out of oxygen. So a tether in reality would prolong my life. I don’t say this stuff much leading up to it because ABC will try to figure out another way to keep me safe.”
Wallenda Began Performing at a Young Age
Wallenda is a seventh-generation aerialist. He was born in 1979, after his family was already known as the “Flying Wallendas.” Though they got the name publicly in the 1900s, the family has been performing in the circus since the 1700s.
The stunts can be deadly for some members of the Wallenda family. The relatively recent tragedies following the Wallenda family started in July 1944 when a fire broke out in a circus tent while the Wallendas were on a highwire. They escaped, but 167 people died.
In 1978, Wallenda’s great-grandfather Karl Wallenda was killed at 73 years old while attempting to walk between two buildings in Puerto Rico.
In 1962, The Flying Wallendas were attempting a seven-person pyramid in Detroit, Michigan. They’d been performing the stunt for over a decade, but during the Detroit performance, the pyramid collapsed and two of the members were killed and Mario, one of Nik’s great-uncles was paralyzed from the waist down after the fall.
Nik’s sister, Lijana Wallenda, was injured in a 2017 accident that occurred during a performance of the same pyramid stunt, but she has since returned to walking the tightropes with her brother. She will not be participating in the Volcano Live walk, but she will be there cheering her brother on.
At this point, one danger that may cause the volcano walk to be called off is an eruption. The Masaya is an active volcano, though it has not erupted since 2008.
Tune in to “Volcano Live!” on ABC on March 4, 2020 at 8 p.m. EST to watch Wallenda perform the volcano walk.