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How Going Over Niagara Works

Bobby Leach, 1911

On July 25, 1911, Bobby Leach became the first man to go over the Falls. He was a circus stuntman from Cornwell, England, and claimed he was going to be the first to face the "triple challenge": making a barrel trip through the rapids to the whirlpool, parachuting from the Upper Suspension Bridge into the river upstream of the rapids, and going over the Falls in a barrel.

Leach accomplished the first two challenges in 1908 and 1910. Then, on the afternoon of July 25, 1911, Bobby Leach climbed into his 8-foot-long (2.4-meter) steel barrel at Navy Island. This is a section where the Niagara River's current heads toward the Canadian shore. It took 18 minutes for Bobby to reach the Falls and another 22 minutes for someone to recover him once he plummeted to the base, where the barrel got stuck in the rocks. Bobby Leach survived but broke his jaw and both kneecaps. He spent the next six months in the hospital.

Bobby eventually left the hospital and toured the world with his barrel. In 1926, while in New Zealand, he slipped on an orange peel, fracturing his leg. His leg became infected and was amputated, and Bobby Leach died of complications two months later.