A history of walking on water

Posted on January 25, 2010 

A history of walking on water

On the afternoon of 22 January 1907, a wailing chorus of steamboat whistles sent the residents of Memphis, Tennessee, running to the banks of the Mississippi river. “A great crowd assembled on the riverside, thinking some great disaster was taking place on the water,” reported the Memphis News-Scimitar. Instead, the swelling crowd was greeted by the sight of a man calmly walking on water. This was no miracle. Gliding along on a pontoon-like pair of “water shoes” was “Professor” Charles W. Oldrieve, the world’s pre-eminent “aquatic pedestrian”.

It Was a wild wager: $5000 if he could walk all the way from Cincinnati to New Orleans – on water. But as the self-styled “Professor” Charles W. Oldrieve deftly dodged the wake from passing steamboats, it looked as if he might just collect. He had left Cincinnati, Ohio, on New Year’s Day 1907. Under the terms of his bet with Boston gambler Alfred Woods, he had just 40 days to reach New Orleans, a 2600-kilometre walk along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. As he strode downriver in “water shoes” of his own design, followed by his wife and judges in a skiff, people flocked to the riverside to cheer him on.

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