While Aquaman may well be the most boring superhero ever, there’s no denying that he’s actually got some pretty nifty powers. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to hang out underwater and see all the incredibly bizarre and insanely cool creatures down there? We bet it’s even better than a 3-D IMAX movie!
On the other hand, anyone with a bit of training and some scuba gear can achieve that, but that’s just not quite the same, is it? If only we could just slip into the ocean and run around on the seafloor like we belonged there.
Turns out that, while you and I may not be able to, there are entire cultures of folks who live on the sea–and some of them can even “walk” on the ocean floor!
Known collectively as the Bajau Laut people, the history of these seafaring nomads is murky at best–no one really seems to be absolutely sure where they came from, though it is believed that the groups originated in or around Malaysia. Additionally, the term “Bajau” refers to a number of smaller, but closely, related groups, all of whom traditionally lived their entire lives on the ocean. While the number of sea-dwellers seems to be dwindling, there are still many Bajau groups who live on the water, mostly in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Some build their home right in the oceans, set upon stilt like poles as in the photo above.
And other Bajau people do literally live on the water–spending their entire lives on boats. In fact, they will even get land sick on the rare occasions they come ashore to trade. One Bajau woman interviewed by the BBC said that she had been born on a boat–and hated going on land. While these seafaring people are without a nationality and have very little in the way of money, they are able to live full, rich lives thanks to the bounty of the ocean.
Speaking of the ocean’s bounty, one of the Bajua’s most fascinating practices is intense, truly mind-boggling underwater hunting. Now, you might be imagining something involving nets or scuba gear, but if so, you’ve got the wrong idea entirely! Instead, Bajau hunters will sink down to the ocean floor and literally walk on it. While that might not seem like such an amazing feat to those of us who turn into stones the moment we get our toes wet, it’s actually quite difficult to keep a human submerged–we tend to be a bit too buoyant.
Some of the Bajau people, though, are apparently dense enough to stay underwater without much effort–we’re guessing they’re not eating as many Pizza-Burgers as we are. But that’s the least of their amazing abilities! These skilled seafarers can submerge themselves as deep as 30 meters (about 100 feet) with nothing more than a chest full of air. And they can hold their breath–while stalking the ocean floor for some tasty fish–for five minutes. The very thought of it just makes us dizzy!
All in all though, it’s nearly impossible to imagine holding your breath while hunting underwater with nothing but your swimsuit and a speargun. Fortunately, BBC’s Human Planet did a phenomenal job of capturing one Bajau man’s trip under the sea (“darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me”). Why not try playing along at home? See if you can hold your breath as long as this incredible underwater hunter.
So, were you able to hold your breath for as long as Sulbin? We most absolutely were not. Jeez, our lungs were burning just watching that!
While the Bajau people live lives most of us can hardly even imagine–lives fraught with both discrimination and poverty–they also seem to be exceptionally happy. Though we might not necessarily want to spend the rest of our lives on a boat, we cannot help admiring their adaptions and infectious smiles. And if Waterworld ever comes true, we know to whom we’re going to go begging for help!