These guys are as tough as it comes: the original bungee jumpers. Indeed, the sport that so many people either fear or pay a substantial amount of money to partake in is entwined into a small island’s culture. The art of land diving (or the naghol) has been performed for centuries on the Pentecost Island, in the Vanuatu nation of the South Pacific.It all started in folklore.
The birth of land diving came from a man named Tamalie and his wife. Tamalie was an abusive husband that frequently threatened and beat his wife to a bloody welp. One day, to escape the torment, his wife ran away and hid high in a tree. Tamalie gave his wife the ultimatum to come down and be hit once, or stay up there and be beat to pieces. After much coaxing and persuasion, Tamalie convinced his wife to jump from the tree with him, only to realize he had accidentally tied vines around his wife’s ankles instead of his own. Tamalie tumbled to his death, while his wife remained unharmed. For centuries, only women attempted the dives based on this story before the men claimed the sport for themselves.
Now the game symbolizes the passage of young boys into the realm of manhood. In order to prove themselves worthy of maturity, the boys are required to jump from a platform nearly 100 feet tall and land safely.
Head first, 100 ft, just vines, and absolutely no safety net.
The goals of the jump is simple: jump as high and come as close to the ground as possible. In what now also counters as a festival for a good yam harvest, the jumper believes that the higher they jump, the higher the crops grow. If you miscalculate your jump, you’re considered merely a sacrifice.
According do village leader Luke Fargo, “if one of the vines snap, you break your arms, leg, neck, and backbone. You will not live, and we will not weep”.
Although the focus on safety is irrelevant in their society, they do give much attention to building the towers and selecting the vines. The 100 ft. towers must be built from strong, freshly cut wood from the Venuatu forest, or else the tower will snap from its own weight and pressure. Also, the vines used must be fresh and full of sap. The vines must be perfect to ensure a life is not lost. One ounce of too much weight, or half an inch of dry vine will surely result in a villager’s death. The last death occurred in 1974, when Queen Elizabeth visited during a time of dry vines.
The sport now pays for itself.
Although these village athletes never have to worry about signing bonuses or insurance premiums, their actions now act as the lifeline for Pentecost Island. Visitors are allowed to tour the island between April and June to witness to spectacle of land diving. Although offered much money to play the sport, a visitor has never been allowed to leap. The island now thrives in tourist awaiting to see the spectacle of land diving.