A while back, that one jumped out at me from the notice board at the Gardiner Post Office. How do you lose the canopy, but not the skydiver as well? I wrote the number down, planning to follow up.
When I phoned, the call was answered by the parachutist himself, at his home in Gardiner. He explained that a skydiver carries two chutes. “If the first one does not open properly, you cut it away and deploy the second chute. You hope you can roughly pinpoint where the first one might land, and later retrieve it,” he explained.
I received a little more education on the intricacies of this process. A skydiver’s chute pack is surprisingly small, even though it holds both the main chute and a reserve chute. The skydiver, when ready to deploy his or her chute, pulls a small plastic ball at the bottom of his pack. This deploys the pilot chute, a mini version of a parachute. Its drag pulls the main chute from the pack, where it—hopefully—picks up air and billows.
In the case of a malfunction like the one that led to the notice in our Post Office, the skydiver pulls the cut-away handle, detaching that failed main chute and its lines from his back. When the canopy floats away and clears, the reserve chute handle is pulled and the reserve chute opens.
It all sounds so easy from down here, doesn’t it? And, yes, our friend did recover his lost canopy.