Just recently you could have been forgiven for thinking that B.A.S.E. jumper Felix Baumgartner had vanished off the face of the earth; following months of preparations, however, he was in Oman for a jump into the second largest cave in the world...
It's 395 feet deep, curved like a tube and, if you believe the endless tales, inhabited by evil spirits: the "Seating of the Spirits" cave on Oman's 3,900-foot-high Selma Plateau is not one of the Middle East's most inviting destinations.
Jumping into the absolute darkness from its vertical mouth hasn't yet crossed the mind of anyone with any sense of self-preservation. "But I’m someone who sets himself goals that no one has ever set before and achieves them," says Felix.
At 10:55am on a day at the end of January, he launched himself off a ledge into the cave - one of the biggest risks of an adrenalin-filled career, even for Baumgartner.
"I don't lust after fear, but fear is what makes a goal worthwhile." -Felix Baumgartner
The jump lasted six seconds, most of it through pitch darkness - making sure that the lighting conditions were as favorable as possible for the start of the jump didn't help much, either. Because "Fearless Felix" is known not just for his casual intrepidness but also for his meticulous and highly professional attention to all of the risks involved, months of preparation went into the jump.
"I visited the location many times with my team to explore it, take notes and define the necessary measures to set before the jump," he says. To help the 37-year-old Austrian find his bearings during the flight through the contorted tunnel, his team marked out the floor of the cave with lights, the idea being to steer toward them. And precise calculations on the depth and curvature of the cave and his own velocity of fall were made to determine the right time to pull the ripcord of his specially-constructed parachute.
His freefall into the darkness of the cave was "a gigantic feeling", according to pioneer Baumgartner, who regards victory over himself as the most important goal of his projects.
"I don't lust after fear, but fear is what makes a goal worthwhile, which makes fear part of the job."
Fear is something he's overcome by jumping, for example: from the 1,480-foot-high Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, from the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and, most recently, from the Turning Torso in Malmö, Sweden. No wonder, then, that even the cursed spirits of Oman respectfully kept their distance...