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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: Imagine diving head first from a tall tower with only a vine tied to each ankle to keep you from hitting the ground. For the men on Pentecost Island in the South Pacific, it's just part of growing up. The rite of male initiation and fertility called Naghol takes place each April and May. With the first yam harvest, men begin building bamboo towers up to 60 feet tall. Selected youngsters climb to the top and tie vines to their feet that are cut an exact length based on their height. If all goes well, the diver's head just grazes the ground at the climax of the jump. The men of Pentecost have been land-diving for more than 1,500 years. The custom goes back to the myth of Tamalie, an abusive islander who chased his wife up a tree. She agreed to come down only if Tamalie would dive off with her, but the woman tied vines to her feet, and when they jumped, Tamalie hit the ground and died. In 1987, New Zealander A.J. Hackett brought land diving into the international spotlight when he replaced the vines with elastic cords and plunged off the Eiffel Tower, giving birth to the extreme sport we now call bungee jumping.

(Falling sound)

CURWOOD: And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanaaaaaaac!




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