Day Eight – Pentecost Island, Vanuatu:There are some things on this planet you just have to see to believe and the land divers of Pentecost Island are definitely one of them.
It doesn’t matter that it was mentioned in the itinerary you poured over before boarding the National Geographic Orion, or announced in the daily intentions. You won’t truly appreciate it until you’ve witnessed it.
It was now day eight on the ship’s inaugural voyage as we made our way to Pentecost in Vanuatu.
We had an early breakfast before boarding the Zodiacs to shore.
Once on land, we followed a path up the hill to get our first glimpse of the 70-foot tower, made only of wood and vines.
The singing started as we got closer and the young boys and men began to climb.
They jumped off various parts of the structure that stands well over ten times their own height.
Known as ‘divers’ they climb up thin platforms that will barely support their weight. The platforms eventually snap as they jump from these heights and it helps to break their fall once they take the ultimate in leaps of faith.
Lashed to their ankles are vines that have been expertly measured and tied by veterans of this extreme ritual that is only practiced here on this one island of Vanuatu.
I couldn’t help but hold my breath and they went higher and higher because eventually they were going to jump.
And they did.
They jumped off various parts of the structure that stands well over ten times their own height. A structure that was built just a few weeks ago and is devoid of even a single nail, screw or any other scrap of metal.
There were 15 divers, each took turns, and each jumping higher than the next.
The youngest, and first to take the plunge, was only six years old and he plunged from twenty feet above the ground.
As they continued jumping, the song becomes a chant, and it draws down to the last diver.
He ceremonially raises his hands high above him and begins to almost imperceptibly rock back and forth.
Time itself seems to pause and become another member of the audience, utterly captivated by the anticipation of the moment.
Then, as if it was the most natural thing to do in the world, he leans forward and drops, falling towards the earth below, and into our memories forever.
I still can’t believe it though.
Watch the video below to see land divers in action.
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