People talk about the ‘millennial’ generation being all about the cotton wool, well nothing could be further from the truth in Vanuatu.
This is Land diving, a ritual performed by the men of the southern part of Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. It’s pure insanity and a prime example of an alpha act that left western society many centuries ago.
Men and boys jump off wooden towers around 20 to 30 meters (66 to 98 ft) high, with two tree vines wrapped around the ankles. According the Guinness Book of World Records, this is the highest g-force experienced by any person through non-industrialized means.
Background: The Legend
Myth claims that the tradition started thanks to the ingenuity of an aggrieved woman. Her husband was too vigorous regarding his sexual wants, so she ran away into the forest.
In an effort to escape her husband, who continued to pursue her, she climbed a banyan tree. Still unable to shake him off, she tied lianas to her ankles and jumped and survived. Her husband jumped after her but failed to tie lianas to himself, which caused him to plummet to his death. Karma’s a bitch.
This story seems a bit shaky, but some believe the men performed the original land diving to ward against such trickery.
Ultimately, the ritual provides men and young boys with an opportunity to prove themselves in front of their community.
- The construction of the tower typically takes between two and five weeks and requires between twenty and thirty men.
- During the dive, the jumper can reach speeds of around 45 mph (72 km/h).
- Tourists watching the land-diving today typically pay 10,000-12,000 vatu per person (around $100-$120)
Queen Elizabeth II incident:
In 1974, Queen Elizabeth II visited Vanuatu. The British colonial administration decided they wanted the queen to have an interesting tour, and convinced the inhabitants to participate in a jump. The problem being that it was out of season and the vines were not elastic. One diver fell to the ground after both lianas broke, and later died in a hospital. Incredibly, this is just the second death in recent memory.
Occasionally foreigners are permitted to dive, here’s one hilarious effort.