Posts Tagged With: history

What is Ziplining, and where Did it Come From?

Here at Tree Limin’ Extreme ziplining is what we do. So we sometimes forget that some people aren’t as familiar with the concept as we are. We often get questions concerning what ziplining is and about where it came from. Maybe we can answer those questions today.

Ziplining has been around for a very long time. While historians say it was first done in the Himalayan region of modern day India, some believe that several ancient cultures in South America were actually the first to zipline. It was originally used to travel across rough terrain, and to access remote villages. The equipment was rudimentary, using a natural fiber rope and homemade harness. For many years ziplining simply remained a transport mode for the remote and wild areas of the world, but in 17th century England, ziplining first used for fun and entertainment. Steeplejacks, the high climbing people that maintained church spires, devised a quick way for them to reach the ground at the end of a long day. They would slide down a long angled line instead of climbing down. Some steeplejacks noticed that a crowd would often gather to watch this feat, and so a few of them started performing their antics for large crowds all over England.

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Steeplejacks hard at work.

These were very primitive forms of early ziplining though, so modern ziplining can trace its roots back to the golden age of mountaineering. In the early 1900’s mountaineering was becoming popular as equipment and training was improved. During this time many of the climbing techniques still used today were developed. One technique is called the Tyrolean traverse, named after the Austrian mountain range where it was invented. The Tyrolean traverse features a rope strung between two points, and a pulley is applied then attached to the climber. The climber then had to pull themselves across as the line is level. They were used to cross crevasses, chasms, and canyons. At some point, it was noticed that if one end of the line was elevated then one could simply slide, or zip, across.

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A Tyrolean Traverse

In the 1970’s and 80’s many scientists were performing expeditions into the unexplored jungles of Central and South America. These scientists used many climbing and mountaineering techniques in order to travel through the tough terrain. A group of biologists studying the rainforest canopy in Costa Rica, grew tired of having to climb up into, and then down from the canopy on every different tree. They decided to connect several trees with inclined Tyrolean traverses to make their research more efficient. After the 1992 film Medicine Man, starring Sean Connery was released, many people began to see opportunities for ziplines outside of transportation and research.

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Poster for the movie Medicine Man

Today, ziplining is one of the fastest growing forms of eco-tourism in the world. Just the United States alone has over 200 ziplines. They are now one of the most popular adventures for vacationers, and locals alike around the world. The cruise industry, especially, has helped ziplining, as it is the most asked for shore excursion on many cruise lines. Modern ziplining has little in common with its historical counterparts though. Modern ziplines are marvels of precise engineering, and immense safety. Long gone are the days of natural ropes and homemade equipment. Steel wires and specially made pulleys and harnesses are now the norm.

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Our modern zipline here at Tree Limin’ Extreme

So if you are looking for a bit of adventure on you next vacation, or close to home, be sure to look up the nearest zipline for some good times. If you find yourself in St. Thomas be sure to look us up at Tree Limin’ Extreme, as we offer the first and only zipline adventure in the Virgin Islands.

For more information visit our website at www.ziplinestthomas.com

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Categories: Adventure, Culture, Extreme Sports, Rock Climbing, Tree Limin' Extreme, Ziplining | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Island History: The Taino Petroglyphs

The Virgin Islands have a storied and fascinating history, and it goes back further than one may think. A team from TLE recently ventured to the Island of St. John, and it’s Virgin Islands National Park to experience this history first hand.

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One of the Natural Pools at the Petroglyphs

Deep within the Virgin Islands National Park, miles down one of the parks longest trails, lies one of the few natural water sources (other than rain) on any of the Virgin Islands. It is a small trickle of water coming out of rocks some twenty feet up a small cliff. Below, small pools are in an idyllic setting of lush jungle filled with palms and ferns. Dragon flies dart about trying to capture their next meal. A mongoose scurries up some rocks off to the side. No where is there a more perfect representation of the Virgin Islands of the past.

If you were to look closer though, just above the highest pool, an odd shape can be seen on the rock face. Next to it, even more shapes can be seen. These are the famous Petroglyphs of St. John. Carved by the Taino people beginning around 200 A.D. and ending with the collapse of Taino settlements in the area after European arrival in the late 1400’s. The small water fall and pools were sacred to the Taino as they were one of the only reliable water sources on the Island; the trickle of water is unaffected by lack of rainfall. Around the pools the Taino carved depictions of local animals and plants, ones that they relied on for sustenance and medicinal uses. Other carvings seem to represent people or gods. Relatively little is known about the glyphs themselves however, with many theories concerning their origin and meaning. Other carvings have been found throughout the park, even as recently as last year. Other collections of ancient petroglyphs ca be found throughout the caribbean.

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Some of the well known glyphs above the pool.

The petroglyphs in St. John are protected by the National Park Service within Virgin Islands National Park. To see the glyphs for yourself, find the park’s Reef Bay Trail off Centerline Road. Follow the trail downhill for just over two miles, then turn right at the marker for the Petroglyphs Trail. The waterfall, pools, and glyphs are only a further three tenths of a mile down the trail. Be prepared for the steadily uphill two mile climb back to the trail head. Always bring water, proper clothing and shoes, and use sun protection. Never hike alone, and always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. Free maps, basic trail guides, and park specific safety information are available from the Park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay.

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One of the largest glyphs in the park.

For more information on the Petroglyphs and the National Park, visit the official NPS website at: http://www.nps.gov/viis/index.htm

For information on visiting St. John or the other U.S. Virgin Islands please visit U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism at: http://www.visitusvi.com/

If you are feeling even more adventurous after your hike you should try our ziplines! Visit Tree Limin’ Extreme at our website www.ziplinestthomas.com, or call us at 340-777-9477. Reservations are required.

Stay Historically Extreme!

-The TLE Historians

Categories: Adventure, Culture, Hiking, Other Islands, Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands National Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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