Diving

The Moken learn to swim before they can walk. When diving, they can hold their breath for what seems an eternity.Through generations of gathering and hunting from the sea, the Moken have developed the unique ability to focus under water; their pupils actually contract instead of expand when they dive, allowing them to spot their catch amongst corals and stones at a great distances. It is also suggested that their spleen works more efficiently at producing red blood cells when diving, thus the Moken can stay under water for longer periods of time the more they dive, contrary to other free-divers.

The Moken came into focus after the tsunami of 2004, due to the fact that although their habitat was one of the first to be hit by the great wave, none were reported to have lost their lives. The reason for this was that the giant waves and portents of these are passed on orally through the generations. The Moken knew the tide would come in good time, and sought either out to sea or up to higher grounds.

Their unique knowledge of ecosystems both above and below water, as well as thorough knowledge of medicinal plants and food in the ocean, could prove to be invaluable to us all.

In this section of moken-projects.com we will over time give you lots of information about the diving abilities of the Moken and their underwater world.

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A report by  Anna Gislén in Current Biology (Volume 13, Issue 10, 13 May 2003, Pages 833-836) Shows the extraordinary under water vision of the Moken.

Abstract

Humans are poorly adapted for underwater vision. In air, the curved corneal surface accounts for two-thirds of the eye’s refractive power, and this is lost when air is replaced by water [1]. Despite this, some tribes of sea gypsies in Southeast Asia live off the sea, and the children collect food from the sea floor without the use of visual aids [2]. This is a remarkable feat when one considers that the human eye is not focused underwater and small objects should remain unresolved. We have measured the visual acuity of children in a sea gypsy population, the Moken, and found that the children see much better underwater than one might expect. Their underwater acuity (6.06 cycles/degree) is more than twice as good as that of European children (2.95 cycles/degree). Our investigations show that the Moken children achieve their superior underwater vision by maximally constricting the pupil (1.96 mm compared to 2.50 mm in European children) and by accommodating to the known limit of human performance (15–16 D) [3]. This extreme reaction—which is routine in Moken children—is completely absent in European children. Because they are completely dependent on the sea, the Moken are very likely to derive great benefit from this strategy. Read More…

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Amazing video of Bajau diver.

The video under is of the Bajau fisherman Sulbin freediving on one breath, filmed in real time. The Bajaus have many of the same traits as the Moken and are both often referred to as Sea gypsies. While the Bajaus no longer live as sea nomads they have not forgotten the art of free-diving and underwater hunting. The Moken are probably the only group still living as sea nomads.