8Moken People Of Indonesia Can See Underwater
What is cooler than being able to hold your breath underwater? Seeing underwater.
This ability is limited to the children of the Moken people of western Thailand. Like the Bajau people of Indonesia, the Moken live by the seaside and are also called water nomads. Unlike other kids, however, the Moken children have excellent eyesight underwater.
In 1999, Anna Gislen, a researcher with the University of Lund, traveled to Thailand to live with the Moken people and study their superpower. She realized that the eyesight of their children was two times better underwater than that of European children. Interestingly, she also observed that adult Moken cannot see as well underwater.
Gislen initially suspected that the eyes of the children had evolved. But that was not the case because it would have affected their eyesight outside the water. On careful observation, she realized that the children could constrict their pupils and change the shape of the lenses of their eyes—two factors necessary for underwater eyesight. In fact, this is how seals and dolphins see underwater.
To confirm her theory, Gislen trained some European children in Thailand and Swedish children in Sweden to control their pupils and lenses underwater. A month later, they could see as well underwater as the Moken children. The European children did not find it easy, though. Unlike the Moken children, their eyes always turned red because of the salty seawater. But they would have adapted to that, too, if the training continued.
Moken adults cannot see that well underwater because their lenses are already rigid, just like that of adults elsewhere. From all indications, it is unlikely that Moken children will maintain their superpower for long. The entire tribe was moved far inland after an earthquake-induced tsunami destroyed their seaside village in 2004. They no longer have such easy access to the sea.