Hardy, A. Was there a Homo aquaticus?. Zenith 15 (1):4-6, (1977).
Here's a large selection of the text of Hardy's "Zenith" article as transcribed in Elaine Morgan's "Aquatic Ape".
... Whilst there can be little doubt that man is descended from arboreal ancestors, it is also certain that he came down from trees at a very early period before his arms became too highly specialized for swinging from bough to bough; he came to feed on the ground. Now here is another important difference between man and the rest of the primates: the latter are essentially vegetarian feeders, living largely on fruits, but with one exception; man alone became a carnivore—the exception being a monkey, the so-called crab-eating macaque, which is now doing just what I believe man did so long ago, going out onto the shores and actually swimming to collect crabs and other crustaceans for. We know that man’s immediate ancestors were hunting on the land in packs with a leader, like hunting dogs or wolves, and for a time they were very largely carnivorous; the semi-aquatic phase I am envisaging took place long before this. It was here, I believe, that man made that remarkable transition from a fruit-eating diet co one of flesh. How like fruits were the succulent bi-valves that he collected as the ride went out! But that was only the beginning. He became a shellfish eater on a grand scale, and not only of molluscs but Crustacea and many other creatures. Competition for food sent him further and further out into the water picking up food from the sea-bed. It was here that he learned to stand upright. We see the same thing happening in the behaviour of monkeys in Japan being trained to feed in the sea—they do indeed adopt the erect posture, the water giving their bodies support; man first groped for food on the bottom in shallow water, but stood up to ear it. The human hand is a remarkable piece of equipment for the picking up of objects between thumb and forefinger (fIg. A) and also adapted, I believe, for groping for and seizing living food on the sea-bed. A mammal that has remarkable human-like fingers on its fore-limbs is the American raccoon which habitually sits by the edge of a stream with its hands in the water feeling about for crayfish or other prey on the bottom.Fig A
Thus I believe natural selection developed man's remarkable hands, combining the forceps-like finger and thumb for picking up small objects, together with a trap-like cage of fingers for capturing fish a other moving prey. So he went further and further out to sea, swimming from one good fishing ground to another.
... We can easily see how natural selection could lead co the reduction of half for it is reported that the Sydney University Swimming team their body hair before a race and by this save a second in a hundred-yard swim; as groups of our ancestors swam in the tropical seas chased by sharks, it was the more hairy that tended to lag behind and so become a prey to the voracious jaws. Gradually hair was eliminated except on the head and under the arm pits and in the region of the groin; ladies who for aesthetic reasons shave the hair from their arm pits, suffer considerable discomfort when bathing in that skin tends to rub or stick together, because they have removed the cushion of hair which nature left to prevent this at the junction of limb and body.
Now look at the remarkable stream-line shape of the human form in fig. B; how different from any other of the primates are the beautiful curves of the body helped incidentally by the layers of subcutaneous fat—they are like the curves of a boat, so loved by many men. The rounding of the human jaw, fig. C, unique among the primates, has always been a puzzle to anatomists: it is shaped like the jaws of a frog.Fig BFig C
I think it likely that man began to use stones for breaking open the shell-fish, etc., as does the Californian sea otter; and stones are so readily available on the shore. Now let us imagine that on a particular shore man was hammering with a stone and he suddenly found the stone split into thin flakes—flakes of flint—one could almost imagine him crying out with excitement: "Boys—a knife!" but of course he could not speak in that distant age, nor would he know what a knife was, but he could at once see the great advantage of these sharp blades of flint. He began not
just to use any old Stone but to make stone tools like knives and spear heads. He now began to hunt larger marine creatures, spearing large fish, which he could not have caught before, then perhaps even porpoises. So he became a hunter in the sea. Then, once he had got his skill and the implements to make it possible, he looked towards the herds of deer and antelopes grazing on the land and he realized that he had now had the means of obtaining food in greater quantity, and without all the discomfort of hunting in the sea. So after some twenty million years or more of living a semi-aquatic life —I must make it clear that I do not suppose man spent more than perhaps five or six hours in the water at a time—Homo aquaticus left the sea (or lake) a very different creature from when he first entered it. Now with a hairless body subcutaneous (at giving him a shapely form, a knowledge of making and using tools, and, above all, the erect posture, he might well be called a new species of man: indeed the ancestor of Homo erectus
. His feet have always been a compromise between swimming organs and those adapted for running. About this time, I imagine, in fashioning flints he saw the sparks fly which led him to make fires of dried seaweed and driftwood along the beach; he was now equipped to cook the fish he caught.
Perhaps it was not only a shortage of food that sent man to the water in he first place, but also a means of escaping from powerful predators: possibly Homo aquaticus was only able to survive and evolve with the help of a number of small sandy or rocky islands stretching up the tropical coasts or margins of lakes where he could live in large colonies, like those of seals or penguins, and where his only enemies were sharks and killer whales in the sea or crocodiles in lakes and rivers.
The only previous publication of my hypothesis was my article in the New Scientist of April 1960, and only then was I forced to publish it to protect myself from the outrageous distortions of my views that appeared unexpectedly in the national press. For thirty years I kept the idea to myself, always waiting for the fossil evidence which I felt must surely come. In March 1960, however, I was invited to address a big conference organized by the British Sub-Aqua Club In Brighton and I thought it might be an appropriate moment to try our my ideas imagining that it would not be reported further than the Brighton Argus. I had not realized that the press of the world was there. My speech was on the Friday evening. Almost every Sunday newspaper came out with banner head-lines such as “Oxford Professor says man is a sea ape!"; some, like the Sunday Times and The Observer, gave a reasonable summary of my views, but most others were wildly inaccurate. To illustrate a point I had naturally been talking about aquatic mammals like the dolphin, so one paper excitedly declared "Professor Hardy's startling new theory shows man to be descended from a dolphin." I hardly dared to go back to Oxford on the Monday. However, I telephoned the editor of the New Scientist to ask if they would publish a more reasonable account of my hypothesis: it came out a fortnight later. I was then asked to give a talk on Radio 3 which was published in The listener. Apart from that I have published nothing further. Desmond Morris devoted a page or two to my ideas in The Naked Ape in 1967. He very nearly came down in favour of it, but then decided otherwise, although he went on to say: “Even if eventually it does turn our to be true, it will not clash seriously with the general picture of the hunting ape's evolution out of a ground ape. It will simply mean that the ground ape went through a rather salutary ‘christening ceremony'.”
That discussion by Desmond Morris triggered off that well known and witty writer, a former Oxford (Lady Margaret Hall) scholar, Elaine Morgan, to take up the idea and write a book on it. Morris had given no references in the text to indicate whether the ideas he was discussing were his own or those of other people; he did say in the preface however, that he was deliberately doing this, as it was a popular book, and all the works from which he had obtained his information were listed at the end al the book, but few indeed could cell which idea was taken from which book. Elaine Morgan thought she was taking up an idea that Morris himself had thought of, and then thrown away: so she wrote to ask if she could quote from him. He replied "It was not my idea at all, it is Alister Hardy’s—you should write to him.” ln passing I may say that Desmond Morris tells me he now thinks it likely that I am right. Elaine Morgan then went to one after another of my various books, two volumes of The Open Sea, Great Waters, and The Living Stream but, of course, found nothing whatever; so she wrote to ask me if it was true that I had published on it, and I sent her the New Scientist article. I was at that time myself contemplating a book on the subject, but I was not then ready as I had other work on hand. I said that if she could wait a year or two I could give her much more information. However she was bound by contracts both in America and this country to complete this book by a certain date, so I gave her my blessing to go ahead; indeed she had every right to do so, for it was now ten years since I had made my views public. Her book, which was published under the title of The Descent of Woman, was a best-seller It was partly about my hypothesis but also a good deal about woman’s place in evolution. She gave me fullest credit for my ideas, and in addition added some very interesting ones of her own, particularly on the origin of tear glands.
I am still waiting for the fossil evidence, but at 81 I must not wait too long! One of the reasons for my accepting the invitation of the editor of Zenith to contribute an article was that by choosing this subject I might perhaps persuade some of those in the Geology Department to organise an undergraduate expedition to dig in Miocene deposits which would have marked a tropical shore line (or lake system) in the hope of bringing back solid fossil evidence for Homo aquaticus. Alas, most of such deposits are submerged below the Indian Ocean, but the experts may know of a few spots still available. If competent geologists could really put their finger upon them, I have little doubt that funds could be attracted to launch such a search for the missing link. There is still at least a 20 million year gap between the earliest fossil men and their unspecialised ancestor (Proconsul and the like). Let Oxford, and Zenith readers fill the gap! This would really clinch the matter, but now there has come another discovery which is almost as conclusive as the fossil evidence, or I believe. It has been found experimentally that man has the remarkable adaptation which is found only among mammals and birds that dive under water. It is called the diving reflex and now solves the puzzle of how sponge and pearl divers can remain below so long. It only happens if a man's face is submerged; it won’t occur if he wears a mask. If he dives under water and his face exposed, there is an immediate reaction cutting down the blood supply to most of the body, but leaving a good supply to the brain and the muscles of the heart. This reaction is typical of whales, seals, penguins, and even diving ducks: I cannot believe that it could have been evolved by natural selection unless man had taken to diving under water some considerable period of his past history. The only remaining test to be made is to persuade some physiologists to do simple experiments with all the known apes. They merely have to be put in a bath of water with their faces submerged for a short time whilst an electro-cardiograph records the changes in the circulation of their blood.
If man is really unique in this I am home and dry! But in addition it would be very pleasant in my old age to have a bit of fossil Homo aquaticus—or a cast of it—on my mantelpiece; so perhaps the Oxford Exploration Club might think of pandering to my eccentricity.
All this, of course, is only an hypothesis and valueless till put to the test. Speculation is the fuel of scientific progress; it drives forward to discovery only if it is continually being burnt in a fire of constructive criticism. Let the critics open fire.