Vanuatu: Nanggol – The mother of bungee jumping
Pentecost Island is most famous for being the spiritual birthplace of the extreme sport of bungee jumping, originating in an ages old ritual called the Gol (Bislama nanggol), or land diving.
Between April and June every year, men in the southern part of the island jump from tall towers (around 20 to 30 meters) with vines tied to their feet, in a ritual believed to ensure a good yam harvest.
The ritual is also now used to show acceptance into manhood.
A miscalculation in vine length can lead to broken legs, dislocated joints, hip dysplasia, cracked skulls, or even death. Boys once they have been circumcised at about age 7 or 8 begin participating, though they usually are allowed to jump from lower heights.
Land diving was first given international exposure when David Attenborough and a BBC film crew brought back footage of the ritual during the 1950s.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom visited Pentecost in 1974 and witnessed a land diving ceremony, during which one unfortunate islander died because the jump was performed too early in the year, when the vines were much less elastic than usual.
Nowadays, tourists pay large sums of money to witness the ceremony, often during day trips from Port Vila.
Pentecost Island is one of the 83 islands that make up the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. It lies 190 kilometers (120 mi) due north of capital Port Vila. Pentecost Island is known as Pentecôte in French and Pentikos in Bislama.
The island was known in its native languages by names such as Vanu Aroaroa, although these names are not in common use today. Pentecost has also been referred to as Raga or Araga, a tribal name that originated in the north but is now widely applied to the whole island. In old sources it is occasionally referred to as Whitsundie Island.