The Bizarre Connection Between Bungee Jumping And The Allied Military

(Photo Credit: Paul Stein/ The National Archives/ Wikimedia Commons)

Bungee jumping is one of those things that make people stop and wonder how in the world was this activity ever discovered? Modern-day bungee jumping has existed since 1980, but an early form of bungee jumping has been around much longer. In fact, bungee jumping has a strange connection to the Second World War.

ID entrance to the Espiritu Santo base
Enlisted men serving on Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu during the Second World War. (Photo Credit: National Archives and Records)

According to legend, the first case of what can now be described as bungee jumping originated thousands of years ago on the Pentecost Islands in the South Pacific. According to local legend, the wife of a man named Tamalie was sick and tired of the abuse she was facing at the hands of her husband.

This woman decided to run away, so she climbed up a tree to hide from Tamalie. However, Tamalie spotted her and climbed up the tree after his wife. The woman, being cunning and observant, tied lianas around her ankles. She jumped off the tree, flying through the air, hoping that the vines would be strong enough to keep her alive. Tamalie, not realizing his wife had outsmarted him, jumped after her and fell to his death.

Naghol platform
Naghol, or land diving platform. The platform are at several heights, with the most experienced diver jumping from the top. (Photo Credit: Paul Stein/ Wikimedia Commons)

After this event, men on the Pentecost Island introduced the ritual Naghol, or “land diving” so women could never outsmart men again. A 28-meter high tower was built for this ritual to be completed. Before a man dives, he airs out his grievances – in case he dies, at least he will have a clean slate. The idea of Naghol was to prove how brave they were. If they jumped and their hair brushed the ground, they believed this would help fertilize the soil for a bountiful crop.

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During the Second World War, Allied military forces used Pentecost Island as a military supply base, naval harbor, and airfield. It is safe to assume that Allied soldiers would have seen the Naghol ritual taking place on the island multiple times. At the end of the War, a huge amount of American vehicles, supplies, and equipment that was deemed unnecessary and expensive were dumped into the sea. Pentecost Island and other parts of the Vanuatu Islands remain under French and English colonial control.

Land diving in Pentecost
A man land diving on the island of Pentecost. (Photo Credit: Choguet/ Wikimedia Commons)

Modern bungee jumping dates back to 1979 when members of the UK-based Dangerous Sports Club leaped off the Clifton Suspension Bridge near Bristol. However, the sport continued to remain relatively obsolete until 1987 when a man from New Zealand named Alan John Hackett illegally jumped from the Eiffel Tower with a Lycra shock cord.

Today, there are hundreds of official bungee jumping spots around the world.