B.A.S.E. – Building, Antenna, Span (arch, bridge), Earth (natural formation, rock)
B.A.S.E. jumps are a form of extreme sport that involves diving from high natural or artificial formations.
It sounds odd to associate B.A.S.E. jumps, performed from tall buildings or rocks, ballooning into the heights and a pit that penetrates the depths of the karst area. This makes the Mamet Cave unique in Croatia and a rare site in the world.
Who exactly discovered it is unknown. Probably some shepherd looking for a stray goat or sheep and enjoying the beauty of the sea side of southern Velebit. What is known is that it was first mentioned in the travels of Josip Poljak in his Guide Through Velebit from 1929. 39 years later on July 5, 1968, speleologist Hrvoje Malinar first descended to the bottom.
The cave is suitable for extreme records for it’s largest opening in Croatia. It is elliptical in shape and measures 60 x 70 meters. Its depth is 206 meters and its bottom is 87 x 157 meters.
Felix Baumgartner is an Austrian B.A.S.E. jumper. He holds several world records, most notable is his jump from the edge of the Universe in 2012. when he jumped from nearly 10,000 meters, penetrate a sound wall in descent, and landed safely at a marked spot.
Jumping into the Mamet pit is considered to be one of the most demanding in the world as it is quite narrow and the parachute needs to be opened at the right time. Opening it too early can result in hitting the rocks, while opening too late may cause the jumper not to slow down enough. Therefore, the preparations lasted more than a year and included the development of a special parachute that allows faster decay and landing on a smaller surface. For the sponsors, there were also plenty of cameras set up in and around the pit to capture every moment of the jump. An ambulance crew was also organized if something went wrong and two doctors with resuscitation equipment were waiting at the bottom of the pit.
After all preparations were completed, the jump was planned for September 25, 2004. The team came into position but the weather got worse. It is difficult to predict the weather in Velebit, since it is located on the border between coastal and continental Croatia, so that the mountain serves as a wall for low, rain-bearing clouds, and strong winds this area are widely known. Bad weather delayed the jump by four days.
Finally, on September 29, the weather calmed down and Felix could jump.
Every second of the jump was carefully planned. After jumping he spent 7.5 seconds in free fall dropping 140 meters during that time, the device in suit signalled Baumgartner that it was time to open the parachute. After opening it, he made a slight turn and landed successfully in a designated spot. The jump itself lasted 10 seconds.
While many in his age enjoy retirement, playing with his grandchildren and the peace of his home and garden, Ivan Trifonov decided to do something that no one else has, to fly a hot air balloon underground.
Exactly 10 years after Bumgartner’s leap into the center of the Earth, another Austrian has chosen the Mamet pit for his feat. This “Austrian” should be accepted with some reserve because Trifonov also has Croatian citizenship. This probably reinforced the decision of the then 70-year-old to do this in Croatia.
By the way, Trifon is a very experienced hot air balloon pilot and owns as many as 5 Guinness records.
As the balloon had to be smaller than usual and thus had less buoyancy and less mass could be lifted off the ground, lowered into the pit and raised again to the surface, the pilot’s basket was removed. Instead, only gas burner cylinders were left, which were framed with iron tubes to make the pilot more stable.
Curious people, however, could have enjoyed the flight a little longer than during the earlier venture, as the flight lasted as much as 25 minutes and successfully ended with Trifon’s return to the surface.