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Pentecost Island Land Divers

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

It’s common practice for cruisers to pick up hitchhikers at the dingy dock, and it was how we met Hannah, a vibrant young Israeli woman, who was crewing her way around the world on a small sailboat. As we puttered out to drop her, her groceries and her gigantic backpack off, she shared with us how she and

Female dancers encourage the divers

Female dancers encourage the divers


We were hustled up the steep hill to the viewing field, which undoubtably was yesterday’s cow pasture, and we settled in for an enjoyable afternoon of impressive displays of bravery, courage and interesting costume choices. The traditional dress for women of the village is a long grass skirt, with swinging bare breasts, whereas the men wear nothing more than their brilliant smiles and penis sheaths, woven out of grasses, scrotums dangling freely. The modern Ni-Vanuatuan man may include a pair sunglasses or a baseball cap as part of his ensemble. (Apart from the performers, the rest of the villagers were dressed in western garb). A small audience of about 30 people sat in the field to watch, most of them from the yachts anchored nearby.

Jonas and Garry waiting for a "splat"

Jonas and Garry waiting for a “splat”

There was a rather large tower, constructed out of branches and vines at the top of the small hill. It appears that the tower must be re-built for every performance, as parts of the tower are designed to break away with each diver. Several men stood up in the tower, awaiting their turn to jump, while a few “catchers” waiting on the ground below. A group of 5 or 6 men and women danced and chanted, while the divers climbed higher up and whoop-whooped as they mustered up their courage to make their leaps.


Several times, one or even both of the vines would snap under the impact, causing a couple of embarrassing face plants into the red earth. However, there didn’t seem to be any permanent damage or injury, unlike in 1974, when Queen Elizabeth II witnessed a diver fall to his death, when the special Royal out-of-season performance resulted in vines that would not stretch properly.


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