The Dolphin Children of The Moken Tribe: How These Kids Learned To See Underwater

The ability to move freely under water is in some ways comparable to flying. The freedom of going up and down and playing around without feeling the weight of gravity, it would feel amazing!

In the waters of the Andaman Sea, we find the Moken tribe who are also known as ‘the sea nomads’. The children of this tribe poses the ability to move so freely under water, so they are being called the dolphin-children!
When the tide rises the children of tribe tend to be more under water than above.Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 10.26.06 AM

They enter the waters and swim to great depths. Not only do they have the possibility to sink themselves without weights, they see perfectly clear underwater without goggles. This usually isn’t the case for us, when we open our eyes under water, our vision completely blurs.

Their eyes are completely adjusted to the conditions underwater. When the dolphin-children open their eyes, their irises get smaller and they increase their depth of field.  Also the actual shape of their lens changes, which is called accommodation. This is a similar adaptation to what dolphins do.

The Swedish scientist Anna Gislen travelled to Asia to visit the Moken tribe to do more research about the children’s eyes under water. Besides inspecting the dolphin-children, she wanted to find out if all children have the ability to adapt their sight under water.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 10.25.56 AMBy giving a group of children whom were on vacation assignments like reading patterns underwater, she discovered that after 11 training sessions within a month their vision improved. They could see the patterns as clear as the Moken children. But their eyes would still become red and irritated because of the salty water that did not happen to the dolphin-children. Even though Gislen believes it is highly possible also this can go away over time.

Adaptation to the underwater circumstances seems to be the main reason for the children to be able to see so clearly underwater.

It gives us more proof that we are capable of doing more than we think. Our brain’s adaptability challenges human limitations of what we believe is possible.