The Leviathan is is the new $28-million roller coaster that opened this weekend, the 16th roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland. It is 93 metres high and hits top speeds of almost 150 kilometres an hour.

A Wonderland spokesperson warned that the Leviathan is not for the meek….  this coaster is all about extreme speed… This is a great ride for thrill seekers who are really looking for extreme thrills… At some point, his body will be subjected to G-forces of 4.5. Space shuttle astronauts experience 3Gs during takeoff.

Leviathan stats:

  • Highest hill: 93.3 metres
  • Steepest Drop: 80 degrees
  • Top speed: 148 km/h
  • Total length: 1,672 metres
  • Scariest turn: hammerhead turn at 115 degrees that crosses above the park’s front gate
  • Ride time: 3m 28s
  • Height requirement: 58 inches tall

I am an old fogey. I was also a young fogey and a middle aged fogey. I have never ridden a roller coaster. I did ride a very high ferris wheel, once. Once was enough.

I can understand, I think, the thrill of scaring your wits out while knowing that you are safe. Isn’t that also the appeal of horror movies and reading Stephen King!?

But I can’t do it. I can’t face the cognitive dissonance of all my senses, all my nerves screaming in paroxysms of mortal terror, while my brain tells me to relax, it’s okay, I’ll be back on terra firma in less than four minutes. How does it feel to have your body and your brain at odds like that? Or do the senses take over, so that all you feel is the terror of imminent death? Worse and worse.  And if the brain takes over, why bother?

I suppose the answer includes something about adrenaline, or about fight or flight responses. Fight or flight!? How do people feel when the ride is over, besides nauseated and very relieved? Do they sob with relief, hug their friends, need food, need sleep, or line up again?

Help me with this… I would like to understand the appeal, but I am not brave enough… or foolish enough… to risk an experiment myself.

I will settle for the vicarious experience of these two videos… there is a second one below… and this wonderfull poem by Canadian poet, Raymond Souster. Remember that the old roller coaster he was describing was nothing like this!

Flight of the Roller-Coaster by Raymond Souster

(Old Sunnyside Beach, Toronto)

Once more around should do it, the man confided …

and sure enough, when the roller-coaster reached the peak

of the giant curve above me, shrill screech of its wheels

almost drowned out by the shriller cries of its riders —

instead of the dip, then the plunge with its landslide of screams,

it rose in the air like a movieland magic carpet, some wonderful bird,

and without fuss or fanfare swooped slowly above the amusement-park,

over Spook’s Castle, ice-cream booths, shooting-gallery;

then losing no height made the last yards across the beach,

where its brakeman cucumber-cool in the last seat solemnly saluted

a lady about to change to her bathing suit:

ending up, as many witnesses reported later,

heading leisurely out above the blue lake water,

to disappear all too soon behind a low-flying flight of clouds.

This is how I will observe it… safely… from the ground. Here’s another point of view, if you’re feeling up to it.

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3 Responses to Leviathan

  1. Catherine says:

    Ellen – I love roller coasters, but DETEST ferris wheels – much scarier. However, the newer roller coasters have substituted 30 seconds of total terror for the delightful suspense-building and release of the old wooden coasters. I am getting more chicken but have always loved the old coasters. When I was ten I once rode a coaster 15 times in a row (in the old days you could just hand over more tickets without leaving your seat. Ah, bliss.

    • motleydragon says:

      Fifteen times in a row!
      I already knew that you are a very strong and courageous person, but that is amazing.
      When I was about twelve I persuaded my father to buy tickets for rides at the CNE… mother was in the Better Living Center at a fashion show… and Dad and I both knew there would be hell to pay when she found out… both the cost and the “danger”. After lining up for what seemed a very long time, I changed my mind and used the tickets for another ride. We never told Mom.
      Are there any of the old, wooden coasters still in service? That is what is described in the poem… one of my favourites for teaching. “What happens next?” always elicited wonderful responses, including, occasionally, some in verse. Even those students who, like me, had never ridden a coaster liked to imagine the vicarious thrill.

  2. Catherine says:

    Kennywood Park in my hometown still has several wooden coasters- http://www.kennywood.com/ and there’s a webpage for people who are roller coastser fans coasterfanatics.com Why, you may well ask, do I know these things? ….

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