Schagatay, E. & Abrahamsson, E. (2014). A living based on breath-hold diving in the Bajau Laut. Human Evolution, vol. 29: 1-3, ss. 171-183.
Sea nomads or ‘sea people,’ namely the ‘Bajau Laut’ in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are skilled divers, and many Bajau Laut make a living from freediving. Men do most of the spearfishing, but women also dive, predominantly for gathering sea food. They start to dive at an early age and spend most days of their lives on and in the sea. Our objective was to study their diving and way of life, to reveal if modern humans have the physiological potential for making a living from breath-hold diving for fishing and gathering. Bajau Laut were visited for a total of nine months, during three periods from 2010-2013, in a combined physiological and social-anthropological study. The diving physiology studies focused on a total of 10 male divers, whose working day diving while spearfishing was logged with time-depth loggers. One group of 5 divers were engaged in shallow (5-7 m) spearfishing with an underwater working time of 60%, when diving for 2-9 h. The other group of 5 divers went to a mean depth of 10 m and had an underwater working time of 50%, when diving for 3-9 h per day. During that time, between one and eight kilograms of coral fish, blow fish, moray eels and octopuses were caught, per diver. Seafood collected by the women included clams, crustaceans, sea weed and sea cucumbers. Life among the Bajau Laut was much like it was 25 years ago, although in some areas the fish stock is diminishing, making it necessary for the Bajau Laut to spend more time in the water to obtain the same quantity of fish. It was concluded that modern humans do possess the physiological qualities necessary for making a living from hunting-gathering via breath-hold diving.
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