The Fugitive's Swan Dive. (spoilers, but beside the point)

I caught a few minutes of The Fugitive (the Harrison Ford/Tommy Lee Jones movie) on television a few days ago, and saw again the scene in which Richard Kimble jumps from the dam into the sluiceway below. It prompted a few questions in my mind:

  1. Obviously that was a real place. Where is it? And how high up were they?
  2. Did a stuntman actually make the jump or did they use a dummy?
  3. How survivable is such a jump?

The third question is really why I’m making this thread. Falls from great heights into water are usually fatal, and my understanding of that is that the surface tension of water makes hitting it at high speed as bad as hitting a concrete pavement.

But the water below this dam was churning and roiling, which, it seems to me, would also break up that surface tension. So I’d think the fall itself would be more survivable than most falls from such a height.

On the other hand, that same churning and roiling would make the water much more difficult to swim in, so if your chances of surviving the fall are higher, your chances of not drowning afterward would be lower.

I don’t know where those two probabilities would meet. Or if I’m even right about them. Hence this thread.

  1. Cheoah Dam, Tapoco, Graham County, North Carolina, according to IMDB.

Thanks! That’s a good start.

  1. The spillways of Hoover Dam are 45 feet deep, so if we take that as a standard…Cheoah Dam is 225 ft. high…

I’d say the fall is survivable.

I can’t answer the big question, but that always looked to me like it was obviously a dummy. One of the few scenes in that movie that didn’t completely work.

ISTR commentary that accompanied the DVD indicating that it was a dummy.

Well, if it wasnt a dummy, then it was a dummy that did the jump.

Even without the hieght, lowhead dams (like those at locks on rivers, etc) are extremely dangerous… the churning water keeps you under unless you just happen to get lucky enough to get spit out - assuming you didnt crack your head in the process. (usually the area directly below is filled with largesh rocks, etc… its not a clean fall straight down…).

One bit of info

“Get me a cane pole and catch the fish that ate him”

While you are right that the white water does not have the surface tension of smooth water, it may not have enough density to stop you falling all the way through to the bottom of the race. It could well be more than 50% air (massive guess, but you get the idea).

Splat, not splash


Which? And why?

I have nothing about if the fall is fatal or not, but I’ve seen the dam and there is no way in hell I’d even consider jumping off it.

I’ve done crazy shit, but that isn’t in the realm of possibility.

I don’t think it’s the surface tension that makes a long fall into water dangerous - it’s the water’s mass - in order for you to fall into it, some water has to be displaced quickly, requiring force, but because water is fairly heavy, it takes a fair bit of force to move it quickly - quite a lot of force compared to the amount available from the momentum of your falling body - so the water displaces a bit, your body deforms a bit and all the force is spent - and you’ve decelerated to more or less zero velocity in far too short a time to be comfortable.

So it might be the case that really aerated water (as si refers to above) - if deep enough - wouldn’t present the same mass problem, or that with surface tension?

I want a water park with a ‘flume’ terminating at 300ft, with a bit of freefall into a special, huge and churning pool.

Yes - water with bubbles in it is less dense - therefore any given volume of it (‘it’ being a mixture of water and air) can be displaced more easily by your falling body. Furthermore, air is very much more compressible than water, so the transfer of forces can be buffered a bit.

I think if surface tension were an issue, bubbly water would be worse, because there’s more surface.

It can now be revealed; I was the one who jumped down the dam. While in college, I was visiting the set at the invitation of one of the crew, and when it came time to film the jump, the stuntman backed out. While they were discussing what to do, I asked how much they were paying for the jump and they said $32,000. I quickly volunteered, and they set up the shot. When I got to the edge I almost backed out myself, but there was a lot of pressure on me to follow through. The key is to take a deep breath and keep your legs together when entering the water, because you could be underwater 20-30 seconds. After I successfully made the jump everyone was freaking out and congratulating me, except the stunt man who chickened out. I partied with the cast the rest of the shoot, and near the end, Sela Ward said she was strangely attracted to me. I wasn’t about to get involved in a relationship with an actress just because she was interested in me superficially as a man who did not know fear and not about me as a person, so we left it there. Good memories. I wouldn’t do it again, though - I didn’t bring a change of clothes, and the jump ripped my shirt.

That is literally incredible. How did you spend the 32K?

On his wedding to Morgan Fairchild of course! Yeah! That’s the ticket!

CMC fnord!

No, he used it to hire Def Leppard to play his birthday party. He and Joe Elliott did a duet of “High ‘n’ Dry” to the jump scene, and Tommy Lee Jones did a guest cameo.


No, I am Swandivacus!

I agree. I can’t readily imagine turning down Sela Ward.

the train engine that crashed into the bus is still sitting there on the bank of the Tuckaseegee river outside Dillsboro NC