Fun fact: took 28,000 tonnes of concrete to build Auckland’s Sky Tower.
Opening in 1997, it is, at 328 metres above sea level, the tallest freestanding structure in the southern hemisphere. It’s still the 25th tallest tower in the world, and stands there proudly, a testimony to the Kiwi desire to find the tallest thing in the area and jump off it.
If you asked any one of the gamblers entering the grand glass doors of the SKYCITY Casino in central Auckland what they reckoned your chances were of surviving if you jumped off the Sky Tower, 192 metres above the concrete, you could be pretty sure they’d lay long odds.
Aha! But what they don’t know is that there’s a set of gizmos installed way up there to let you do precisely that.
First, they’ll strap you into a jumpsuit. Then they’ll clip you onto one end of a cable which is wrapped around the drum of a winch at the other, and they’ll run a few reassuring checks. Then they’ll show you the door, beyond which lies nearly 200 metres of airy void.
Whereas under uncontrolled conditions it’d be a matter of moments before you hit the ground, it wouldn’t make for much of a tourism venture. Punters wouldn’t have time to enjoy it, the nice people at SKYCITY would be forever cleaning up the footpath and there’d be a distinct lack of return custom.
What they’ve contrived in the Skyjump is to delay the inevitable – slow you down to a maximum speed of 75 km/h and actually bring you to a gentle halt before the earth does. This way, you spend 16 seconds in transit: time enough to get over your blind terror and enjoy the view.
And what a view! Even the hardened hearts of those who opposed the Sky Tower concept back in the early 1990s have been won over by the vista from the top. Not even Mount Eden can deliver the kind of panorama available from the observation deck, 220 metres above pavement level.
Certainly, the lights of Auckland and the Gulf make for chic wallpaper. If high-altitude dining is your thing, The Sugar Club is Peter Gordon's fine-dining restaurant on the 53rd floor. Or there’s Orbit, which offers an a la carte menu showcasing superb New Zealand cuisine, even as the room rotates around you. And nope, it’s nothing to do with the wine...