ORLANDO (Reuters) - High-wire performer Nik Wallenda completed another death-defying stunt pacing untethered atop the 400-foot-high (122m) Orlando Eye on Wednesday morning, inaugurating a new observation Ferris wheel as it slowly spun toward him.
The record-setting aerial walk, aired live on NBC’s “Today” program, was his first public walk without the use of a balancing pole.
Wallenda braved rain and storm clouds nearby, making the short walk with arms outstretched in just a few minutes without incident at the attraction, owned by Merlin Entertainments Plc.
While the walk appeared not as dangerous as others he has performed, “when you’re up there, ain’t nothing easy,” said Wallenda, who comes from seven generations of aerial acrobats. “The danger is always the same. If I fall I lose my life.”
Wallenda, who has recently went across cables spanning the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and two Chicago skyscrapers, said he practiced walking a wire in slippery conditions without a pole in his bid to achieve another Guinness world record.
He boarded the attraction just like any other passenger on one of the rotating glass cabins. Once at the top, he climbed onto the roof of the capsule and then went down an emergency ladder before beginning the walk along a 6-inch-wide (15cm) moving wheel rim spinning toward him at the rate of 1 mile per hour (1.6 km per hour).
Wallenda was not able to pause or slow down and had to climb around steel structural pieces on and between the capsules that he passed.
Asked why he continues to risk his life with new stunts, he said it was a matter of family legacy, noting that 15 family members currently walk the wire.
“People can’t comprehend why we do what we do but this is in our blood,” he said. “My great grandfather said, ‘Life is on the wire and everything else is just waiting.’ For our family that’s the way we live.”
The Orlando Eye, which allows guests to walk around and take in 360-degree views from glass capsules, is nearly identical to the 15-year-old London Eye, a popular attraction in the United Kingdom.
Orlando’s version opens to the public on Monday, coinciding with the launch of five other attractions in Orlando’s tourist corridor.
Besides the Eye, new attractions include the world’s tallest drop ride at 460 feet (140m), and a 500-foot (152m) high roller coaster.
Writing by David Adams; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bill Trott