Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Land Diving (Nagol) on the Island of Pentecost
For centuries residents of this island used the ceremony of land diving to commemorate a young man’s rite of passage and in the belief that it would insure a productive season’s yam harvest. Months are spent erecting wooden towers from trees cut in the nearby forest and lashed together with vines. Brave young men climb the tower and cling to small perches while an assistant carefully lashes long vines to one of their ankles. After what appeared to be praying and gesturing to a higher power accompanied by chanting and dancing from costumed villagers, the men leap from the tower and are hopefully saved from certain death by the strength of the vine and the trajectory of their dives. If done correctly, their head, chest and forearms just graze the sandy surface of the land below the tower. We watched with fascination as seven men jumped from varying heights. We took photos and video as fast as we could in hopes of capturing the amazing spectacle. Afterward, while acknowledging that this ritual has become a bit of a show for tourists, we all felt that it had been in incredibly special thing to see and a glimpse into the once primitive culture of these islanders.
Before sailing away from the island of Pentecost we traveled to another anchorage where we were pleased to find a large school and a complement of friendly students. Once ashore for a visit we were surrounded by bright-eyed young girls eager to walk with us, tell us their stories and practice their English. Chance, the village chief, spoke with us at length and gave us a tour of the area. We were also pleased to find a pretty reef nearby where we did a scuba dive and several snorkeling trips. The high point of one of our snorkels was finding an especially friendly octopus that seemed happy to interact with us and allow dozens of up close and personal photos to be taken. He was so friendly in fact that we all took turns mugging for the camera with our face masks just inches away from him.
With the familiar and lovely Asanvari Bay on the island of Maewo beckoning, we soon headed north in search of yet another adventure.