When 138 people joined hands in the middle of an 18,500-foot skydive in Illinois earlier this month (video below), they formed neatly into a snowflake-shaped formation and set a world record for largest formation, beating the previous record of 109 people set in 2009.
The record-setting jump looks seamless, but it took 15 attempts and three days. The formation lasted just four seconds … but that seems like an eternity when you're in the air, says photographer Brian Buckland, who explained how the dive took shape in a blog for Outside Magazine.
After a team was assembled from tryouts held around the world, the skydivers assemble to practice the formation on the ground. Pictures and drawings are submitted to judges; the actual dive has to closely resemble those initial renderings.
The divers thought they'd done it on their fifth attempt, but after close examination, the judges noticed some of the divers were gripping with their left hands instead of their right hands. The International Air Sport Federation ruled the jump invalid.
Finally, after three days and 14 jumps, the divers knew they had only one more try. Everything clicked, according to Buckland:
Photo: The record skydive included 138 people. Credit: YouTube