During the eruption, photographs were taken of the steam rising from the sea where the lava spilled in:
The few inhabitants of Lopevi island left during 1960 following recurring imminent danger and it remains uninhabited with the volcano still active – the last eruption is listed as having been in 2008.
These photographs now form part of the Australasia through a lens collection, released online on Friday.
The Republic of Vanuatu, or ‘Ripablik blong Vanuatu’ in Bislama, is a beautiful group of somewhat little-known islands located north-east of Australia in the South Pacific. The Australasia collection of photographs contains two albums relating to the islands which I couldn’t resist highlighting.
The photographs aren’t numerous, but they’re extremely interesting. Not only do we see the volcanic steam, but also the aftermath of a hurricane in late 1959 – clearly a difficult couple of years for the Ni-Vanuatu people.
What really caught my eye while looking through these albums though was this dramatic image showing the traditional ‘Land diving’ that takes place on Pentecost island:
This photo was taken by none other than Sir David Attenborough, who has very kindly agreed for us to put it online and share it with the world. It was taken during a trip to the South Pacific in 1959 and now appears in the Colonial Office collection – we’re not quite sure how!
Land diving is a traditional custom of Vanuatu that involves men and boys jumping from scaffold towers with vines tying them from their ankles to the tower. The vines themselves have to be expertly prepared – cut down two days before and then measured so that the jumper will stop just above the ground. It can only be carried out during certain seasons and the only known fatality (as far as I can find out) has been from a jump that was carried out in the wrong season, so sadly the vines snapped.
Attenborough wrote about the traditional custom in his book Quest in Paradise 1 and, as with many other things, the tradition has now become something of a tourist attraction, although the process remains the same.
Have you visited Vanuatu? Do you have any photos of land diving you can share? We’re asking people to browse the Colonial Office collection online and help improve our knowledge of it by commenting or uploading their own photos to Flickr. Have a look at the collection.
More highlights will follow over the coming weeks!
- 1. David Attenborough, ‘Chapter eleven: The Land Divers of Pentecost’ in Quest in Paradise, (Lutterworth P., 1960) ^