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Indigenous Freediving

January 23, 2011

The BBC has put out yet another incredible series: Human Planet.

Here’s my favorite clip so far:

“The Bajau people in Sabah, Borneo spend almost all their lives at sea, some are able to free-dive 20m to the bottom of the reef to search for fish.”

Here’s more on the Bajau from a great article in the Guardian:

“Diana Botutihe was born at sea. Now in her 50s, she has spent her entire life on boats that are typically just 5m long and 1.5m wide. She visits land only to trade fish for staples such as rice and water, and her boat is filled with the accoutrements of everyday living – jerry cans, blackened stockpots, plastic utensils, a kerosene lamp and a pair of pot plants.

Diana is one of the world’s last marine nomads; a member of the Bajau ethnic group, a Malay people who have lived at sea for centuries, plying a tract of ocean between the PhilippinesMalaysia and Indonesia. The origins of the Bajau diaspora are recounted in the legend of a princess from Johor, Malaysia, who was washed away in a flash flood. Her grief-stricken father ordered his subjects to depart, returning only when they’d found his daughter.

Since diving is an everyday activity, the Bajau deliberately rupture their eardrums at an early age. “You bleed from your ears and nose, and you have to spend a week lying down because of the dizziness,” says Imran Lahassan, of the community of Torosiaje in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. “After that you can dive without pain.” Unsurprisingly, most older Bajau are hard of hearing. When diving, they wear hand-carved wooden goggles with glass lenses, hunting with spear guns fashioned from boat timber, tyre rubber and scrap metal.”

There is also a fantastic photo gallery here (you can use keyboard arrow keys to scroll).  I highly recommend checking it out.  Just note that it is a sad thing to find people who both revere and greatly damage the ocean.

And finally, another article here.

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