Great grampa had already established his credentials by becoming, in 1875, the first person to swim the English Channel. He then moved to the USA and became a circus performer, diving from great heights into shallow pools of water and holding his breath underwater for long periods of time.
He was however, no match for the power of the Niagara River at the base of the falls.
Wallenda will be heading out over the Falls at about 8:15 tonight, weather permitting. He will reluctantly be wearing a safety harness, a condition of receiving permission to make the attempt. I wish him luck!
From Daredevils of Niagara
Captain Matthew Webb
SWIMMING THE RAPIDS
SWIMMING THE RAPIDS
Captain Matthew Webb was born in England in 1848, one of seven children and went to sea at an early age.
In 1875 he accomplished the feat of being the first person to swim the English Channel from Dover to Calais, a distance of twenty-five miles.
He had also been awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Humane Society when he jumped from a steamer into the water to rescue a man who had fallen overboard.
In 1883 Cpt. Webb visited the falls and inspected the rapids and decided he would be able to swim one of the fiercest set of rapids in the world.
Many told him that he was attempting suicide, but Webb was so confident in his swimming abilities that he believed he could conquer the rapids and finish unscathed.
On July 2, 1883 Webb, wearing no life preserver, set out from the Clifton House Hotel at 4 p.m. The event had been well publicized and there were throngs of spectators lining the bridges and gorge. At 4:25, clad only in a red bathing suit he leapt from a small boat from the center of the river into the rapids.
He was seen swimming valiantly under the bridges when a big wave overtook him. Minutes later he was spotted again. Another large wave overcame Mr. Webb and he disappeared under the foaming white water, never to be seen alive again. Webb’s body was recovered four days later in Lewiston.