Next stunt for 'Yank in tank' is going to be breathtaking

HE EARNED the title "Yank in the tank" for enduring 44 days in a glass box over London. And American illusionist David Blaine is again going for confined spaces with his next stunt - seven days underwater in a feat to be called "Drowned Alive".

Blaine, 33, plans to break the record for holding breath underwater, which stands at eight minutes 58 seconds and was set two years ago by Tom Sietas, a German diver.

As ever, the American illusionist will be seeking maximum public exposure for his stunt. From Monday, Blaine will be sealed in an 8ft high acrylic "aquarium" for seven nights outside the Lincoln Centre in New York, where he will be fed air and liquid nutrition through a tube. The climax comes a week later when the New Yorker attempts to hold his breath for a record period live on US television.

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The underwater stunt is the latest in his series of much-publicised endurance tests. In 2003, Blaine spent just over six weeks in an acrylic box hanging from a crane near London's Tower Bridge, while the previous year he balanced on a narrow platform atop a 90ft high pillar for 35 hours. In 2000, New Yorkers were able to gawp at the illusionist for 61 hours after he encased himself in ice in the city's Times Square.

Blaine's various stunts are never knowingly undersold. A statement issued by the magician gives details of his training with the US Navy Seals, an elite military unit, to prepare his body to "defy physiological limits".

The illusionist also hopes he will defy earning limits. His sojourn suspended above the Thames earned a reported 600,000 from television rights, and next week's stunt, to be broadcast in Britain on ITV1, is certain to prove another big earner.

New Yorkers will be able to communicate and be photographed with Blaine as he lies underwater in his Lincoln Centre aquarium. The magician's handlers hope citizens will prove more friendly than they were in London, when a starving Blaine was repeatedly jeered and taunted with food flung at his container.

Clearly stung by the less than adulatory press coverage, a spokesman for the illusionist said his Drowned Alive feat would "attempt to answer all previous doubters who have questioned whether Blaine has resorted to the use of body doubles, mirrors or other trickery in completing his past arduous challenges."

Mark Borkowski, a British showbiz publicist, said he believed Blaine had been bruised by his London reception, but predicted the illusionist's latest stunt would be a success.

Meanwhile Dr Michael Edward, a dermatology expert at Glasgow University, predicted Blaine would not suffer permanent skin damage in his underwater ordeal.

He said: "I don't think it will do much harm. The skin is a very resilient organ and it has the power of repair."

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