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How Much Gas Did It Take for David Blaine Ascension?

Illusionist and endurance performer David Blaine took to the skies this year with his latest performance project: Ascension. Using helium balloons, Blaine undertook what could be considered a tribute to the Pixar film Up by floating over the Hudson strapped underneath a bunch of balloons at around 25,000 feet before slipping out of his harness and falling back to the Earth.

Here at Adams Gas, we love the chance to talk about all things gas related. Helium is something we know a lot about, so we were curious to find out just how much helium went into this stunt. Read on to find out more about David Blaine and Ascension.





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Who is David Blaine?

David Blaine is an endurance artist and extreme performer best known for his high-profile endurance feats, such as living in a suspended glass box for 44 days. He started as a street magician, and when he sent a recording of himself performing magic to ABC, he received a tremendous response. In 1997 he had his own special, David Blaine: Street Magic, and in 1999 he performed his first endurance stunt where he was entombed in an underground plastic box beneath a three-tonne water-filled tank for seven days.

In 2008 he broke the world record for a person holding their breath underwater, 17 minutes, four and a half seconds, surpassing the previous record of 16 minutes, 32 seconds. However, this was beaten five months later by a German diver who managed a time of 17 minutes, 19 seconds.

Over the last couple of decades, Blaine has performed a number of endurance feats, magic shows and broken several world records. In 2000 he stood in a large block of ice for almost 64 hours, and in 2006 he was submerged in a water-filled sphere for seven days. Ascension marks the first endurance stunt in Blaine’s career for eight years.


Blaine’s aerial stunt saw him rise into the Arizona sky beneath a cluster of multicoloured helium-filled balloons. He reached an altitude of nearly 25,000 feet before falling back to the Earth. However, this is by no means the highest a balloon skydiver has ever gone, but the appeal of Blaine’s performance was not just about the height reached.

The world record currently stands at 135,890 feet when Alan Eustace jumped from a scientific balloon. However, Eustace, like previous daredevils who have attempted this kind of stunt, had worn a special pressurised suit during his dive, and the previous world record holder before Eustace had even ascended inside a custom-built capsule.

Blaine took to the skies in his regular street clothing, adding a mix of danger and drama to the stunt.

Fifty-two latex balloons that stretched up to around 50 feet tall were used to take Blaine up into the air. Most of the balloons used were 8 feet in diameter, but there were also some smaller 5.5 feet and 4 feet balloons used to help get the exact balance just right. It’s estimated that one of the large 8ft balloons would give around 15 pounds of uplift, so with Blaine’s 198 pounds of weight, there was quite a lot of uplift needed to get him 25,000 feet up into the air.

So how much helium was used in the stunt? There would need to be an awful lot of the gas required to fill 52 massive balloons. Well, to figure it out, we need to look at how much helium is necessary to fill balloons of that size.

A balloon of 8ft in diameter will require approximately 10,730 litres of helium to fill it – which is a whole lot of helium! When we factor in Blaine’s 198 pounds of weight, we calculated that the entire stunt would require around 85,850 litres of helium to get him up into the air.

You can watch the entirety of Blaine’s stunt on YouTube from set up to take off to the final skydive back down to the Earth:

The stunt is undoubtedly impressive and is an excellent demonstration of just how incredible helium gas really is. His ascension lasted around 30 minutes, and he controlled the lift by shedding small bags of sand to go higher and released individual balloons in order to descend before performing the jump.


We actually covered how many helium balloons it would take to lift several items and animals from around the world in a handy infographic before.  You might be surprised just how much gas is required for some objects!

Infographic explaining how many helium balloons it takes to lift different objects.

While you’re unlikely to be attempting Blaine’s stunt yourself, you may still find yourself in need of helium canisters. At Adams Gas, we specialise in providing a wide variety of gas bottles and canisters, including disposable helium cylinders and refillable helium canisters. We can stock a vast range of other gas cylinders including Calor gas, propane, butane, patio gas, beer and cellar gas, and MIG and TIG welding gas. Contact us today for more information.