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The Bungee-Jumpers of Pentecost Island

Listed under Traditional Cultures in Vanuatu.

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Bungee jumping – the sport of leaping from a tall, land-based structure whilst connected to the top of it by an elasticated cord – may seem like an activity for thoroughly modern thrillseekers, but it has a heroic and fascinating history.

Pentecost Island, part of lush, tropical Vanuatu in the South Pacific, boasts the birth of bungee jumping many years ago. It is said that a woman who had a cruel husband climbed a tree and leapt from its topmost branches. Thinking that her jump was a suicide bid, her husband was filled with remorse and leapt from the same tree himself, not realising that she had survived the fall by tying vines to her ankles. Successive generations of women kept up the land-diving tradition in her honour, until it was decreed that the time had come for the balance to be redressed, and so the practise became a coming of age ritual for young men.

A young David Attenborough and his film crew brought their ancient tradition to the world’s attention in the 1950s, and a worldwide phenomenon was born. There are no guided tours and it is certainly not readily publicised, but it is still possible to see the Pentecost Island land-divers today, with a little local exploration and asking-around.

Written by  larapiegeler.

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