Abseil from the crane of the World Trade Center
93m - 30 November 1985 - Without permission

The World Trade Center

The World Trade Center was built in 1985. It is 93 meters high.

The building is suspended from a central concrete pillar that contains the elevator shafts and the stairways. This pillar was erected first. Later the floors were added.

At the time of the abseil only this pillar was present. The building crane extended above this pillar, so probably the abseil was longer than 100 meters.

Getting up

Between the V&D-warehouse and the WTC a large (4m*6m) partition had been erected to keep people from straying onto the construction site. Jan explored this entry and found that you could get past this partition.

Saturday morning at 3:00 Jan and Peter went past this partition using helmets with headlights. Jan pushed the partition too strongly and the whole thing toppled, making an enormous noise, echoing in all the holow concrete spaces. But no one came to investigate.

Not knowing precisely where to go they ran through the building site and hopped into the stairway. The stairway led only to the fifth floor, no higher sections had been constructed yet. At the fifth floor they found one last ladder leading onto a platform. The pulled up this ladder behind them, blocking the way for anyone who might folow them. On the platform they were invisible for anyone below. Here they waited until they were sure that no one had followed them.

Then they left the platform and climbed up using the steel construction of the temporary elevator. They secured themselves using the standard rope-team techniques. This was a bit tricky. If someone had started this elevator their ropes could have been caught in the machinery.

Jan attaching the top anchor and lowering the rope.

Sleeping on top

At the top of the hollow concrete pillar they found another platform. Here they pulled out their sleeping bags and waited for daybreak. It was spectacular to look down between the planks of this platform and to see 90m of emptiness below you. It was ice cold. A strong wind was blowing through all the holes of the tower.

An impressive view into the shell of the unfinished building.

The abseil

Jan and Peter attached the ropes at the opposite sides of the boom of the building-crane. This put a distance of 3 meters between them.

They attached a rope between them so they could pass their camera between the two of them. At that time they had only one camera.

The "stunt war"

Peter and Jan always annonced their actions in the press (The Havenloods) beforehand. Another climber from Rotterdam - Bram Wijers - had "stolen" one of their ideas by rappelling from the Van Brienenoordbrug first. He had read about their plans in the paper and copied them (at least that's what Jan told me).

Bram had announced his own plans to abseil from the WTC. He wrote in the papers that people near the V&D-store should look up arond 1 December because "Zwarte Piet" (the traditional Dutch helper of Sinterklaas - Santa Claus) would descend from the skies.

Jan played a funny/nasty trick with Bram. When Jan and Peter had finished their own abseil they told the police that in a few hours another attempt would be made. So the gateman and the police kept an eye upon the building and when Bram arrived a few hours later - to perform his own abseil - he was arrested immediately. Bram was not amused. Later het told Jan: "Such treason! It's something I wouldn't do to my worst enemy!"


Stories and pictures of this abseil were published in:

  • Algemeen Dagblad, 2 December 1985, Section: Sport Wereld
    "Illegale klimpartij op beurstoren"
    It states that the bulding crane was covered in ice, that the abseil was longer than 100m, and that the police awaited them at the fifth floor but that they couldn't catch Jan and Peter and haul them inside.
  • De Oostergids, 5 December 1985, Randstad Edities
    "Strijd om de eer over afdaling Beurs WTC"
    It adds that Jan, Peter and Bram had been good friends and that they knew each other from their commando-training in the Dutch army.
  • NRC Handelsblad, 2 December 1985

Jan called the manager of the building firm afterwards but the manager was not amused. Jan says: "We got a very blunt reception. Maybe people who work in this profession simply are that way. Or maybe they're angry because of they might be held responsible if something happened to you."

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1999, 2000 Jan van der Meulen / Petr Kazil