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Camera Man Dies at the Ancient Birthplace of Extreme Sports

Another tragic first, claimed a victim at the birthplace of Extreme Sport when the precarious 75' platform collapsed. Camera man dies before the first ancient ceremonial jump took place. Islanders prepare themselves for the death defying jump as ancient myths are revived in the annual event of the world's most spectacularly frightening religious ceremony.

Copyright (c) 2008 Wendy Tendys

Camera man dies when the Nagol Land Diving platform collapses to the ground. The camera man had climbed the fragile platform to gain spectacular shots for a new documentary. The entire tower collapsed to the ground, minutes after the rope the camera man was holding broke, even before the first performer had psyched himself into position, in preparation for his annual death defying leap.

It is one of the world's most spectacularly frightening religious ceremonies, on Vanuatu's Pentecost island, the land dive. The home and ancient birthplace of extreme sport and the pre-runner of all modern bungee jumping.

Perhaps it is just secret women's business, or just legend from the mysterious myths of ancient times, but it is whispered that the first land diver was a woman. In a desperate bid to escape her husband's abuse she tied a vine to her ankle and dived off the top of a tree. She survived. Not to be outdone by a woman, her husband dived after her without the aid of a vine. He died.

This turned to an ancient ceremony, celebrating the yam crop showing its first green tips in early April. At least one huge wooden tower is built in each of the southern villages of the island. Towers often reach as high as 23m (75ft).

This year, each Saturday from April to June, is to be a jump day, where the men of all ages will line up to take the plunge. Unfortunately it could be their last act on earth.

The islanders believe the jump is necessary to guarantee the bounty of the yam harvest. The divers' back or shoulders must brush the tilled earth, in order to make the ground fruitful. Hopefully all rocks have been removed from the area.

It has now also become a ceremony to show the men's acceptance into manhood. What a potential death jump proves of manhood, however, is beyond our civilized minds' comprehension. Bearing in mind, the jump is now taboo to women.

Each man psyches himself to dive from the precarious looking platform, held only by two vines his friends have tied to his ankles. If there is too much moisture in the vines, the vines will stretch with fatal results. However, a participant died during a filming, when the Queen of England was present in 1974, because of an extremely dry season. The vines did not have enough elasticity ' they tore instead of stretching.

When he is ready to jump the diver raises his hands to the people below to stop their singing, dancing and whistling. Just before he jumps he shouts out his most intimate thoughts, whatever they may be. It is time to let it all hang out, as these may be the last words the diver will ever utter on earth. No proclomation of love to his wife and family, just soul searing truth.

He claps his hands, crosses his arms over his chest and leans forward until he topples over the edge of the platform.

Male relatives rush forward to help him untie his feet and instantly stand him up, in spite of the fact he may not be quite 'with it'. The crowd roars its approval.

This year the platform collapsed before the first dive took place. Reasons: Were the holes dug deep enough into the ground to carry the weight of the climbers. Maybe there weren't enough supporting vines at the back to keep the tower upright.

The camera man. What was he doing climbing the tower?the local islanders ask.

This is the 21st century, yet tradition still has its place, rightly or wrongly. Haven't they heard of workplace safety? Short answer. NO! It does not exist in places like the outer islands of Vanuatu.

Neither does free education in accordance with the Rights of the Child, as ratified by the General Assembly of the United Nations, 1989.

Many of the students will never have the opportunity to go to high school without outside assistance, though the males of Pentecost will annually make a death defying jump. These children will be left behind in the 21st century, with nothing but their traditional way of life. You can make a difference in these children's lives and the lives of their village. Ancient traditions will not be challenged, but the children of this Lesser Developed Country, have the right to be given the opportunity to fulfill their own dreams and ambitions.

Article Tags: Ancient Birthplace

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