A Paraglider Naps Her Way Across The Upper Atmosphere
In February 2007, German paraglider Ewa Wisnerska was sucked into an unexpected thunderstorm in (of course) Australia. As testimony to the storm's intense hatred of flying people, Chinese paraglider He Zhongpin had been pulled into the exact same storm earlier that day. His lifeless body was later found 50 miles away. Not content with one victim, the storm nabbed Ewa mid-flight and dragged her higher and higher into the air. Wisnerska started from an already-unnerving 2,500-ft. altitude, but the storm was lifting her at a pace of 67 ft. per second. At 3,000 ft., her exposed skin was frostbitten. Her glasses, like the rest of her clothes, were covered in ice so thick that she couldn't even make out her own glider -- which the violent weather kept collapsing, so she had to constantly battle the controls to keep it in working condition.
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Gliders offer no protection, but at least they keep you busy.
At 20,000 ft., the air temperature was down to -58 degrees Fahrenheit, and ice encased her entire body. This was inconvenient, as was the lack of oxygen, which caused her to pass out. You don't really expect to wake up from a nap like that. The previous record altitude for a paraglider was 24,000 ft. Ewa blew past it and kept blowing. Geese fly at 27,000 ft. So did Ewa, briefly, on her way to 29,035 ft. -- which is the exact height of the summit of Mt. Everest. At this point, the storm started getting a little frustrated. It continued to lift her -- now to 30,000 ft. -- just to see if she could survive the cruising height of a passenger jet ... without the jet.
At that height, even Iron Men ice up.
At 32,000 ft., the storm finally gave up and she began her descent. At 23,000 ft., Wisnerska woke from the most turbulent nap since the kid who slept through the sinking of the Titanic. Realizing that she had no way to brake or steer (what with her gloves and hands being frozen), she rode out the storm and hoped that she'd eventually land safely. Which she did, 40 miles away from her starting point.