These nomadic people can see like dolphins and hold their breath twice as long as you.

When your entire culture lives on the water, you develop some cool abilities.

Every little kid has wanted to be a fish.

Or a dolphin. Or a shark. Or some sort of spectacular underwater creature, at least once.

We all did it. Glub-glub-glubbin' with our hand-gills underwater, only to end up disappointed when everything beneath the surface of the waves looked all blurry and weird and we were forced to come back up for air.


GIF from "Full House."

But in Southeast Asia, there are a few incredible kids who are closer than the rest of us to achieving these aquatic dreams.

The Moken people can be found spread around the archipelagos of the Andaman Sea off the western coast of Thailand. They're just one of several nomadic Southeast Asian cultures that are sometimes referred to by the problematic name of "sea gypsies." 

There are estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 Moken although no official records exist. Their people are born on the sea, spend most of their lives on handmade wooden boats called kabangs, and go back out to the sea to die.

Moken children even learn how to swim before they walk so that they can help the rest of the tribe by diving for shellfish and eels and other underwater creatures they can eat or sell to survive. But they're only able to do this because of a special advantage: They can see clearly underwater and hold their breath for twice as long as the rest of us.

GIF from BBC/YouTube.

But it's not some rare Atlantean mutation; it's just another way of controlling their muscles.

A 1999 study from the University of Lund in Sweden aimed to uncover the secret of this uncanny skill. Was it evolution? Mutation? Or maybe just a simple body hack that the rest of us can learn from?

The lead researcher, Anna Gislén, integrated herself into the Moken community to study their habits and measure their sight. She discovered that the Moken children were able to see twice as well underwater as European children by simply shrinking their pupils to increase the depth of field and muscularly changing the shape of their eye lenses. It's the same way dolphins are able to see underwater. The Moken children could also willfully decrease their heart rates, allowing them to hold their breath for twice as long.

GIF from BBC/YouTube.

That means that, in theory, anyone can learn how to control their bodies to achieve these amazing underwater adaptations.

In a later stage of her research, Gislén brought a group of European children with her to Thailand — and after 11 sessions over the course of a month, their underwater eyesight improved as well.

“It was different for each child, but at some point their vision would just suddenly improve,” Gislén told the BBC. “I asked them whether they were doing anything different and they said, ‘No, I can just see better now’.”

That being said, the European children were more prone to red eye and other irritations after prolonged exposure to the saltwater with their newly adapted eyes. This suggests that the Moken children might have some unique evolutionary bonus after all.

GIF from BBC/YouTube.

Even more surprising is that adults appear to lose this special ability.

"When we age, our lenses become less flexible, so it makes sense that the adults lose the ability to accommodate underwater," Gislén said. This could explain why the adults tend to spear fish from their boats while the adaptable children dive down to the sea floor.

But now the Moken culture is in danger of disappearing, and their amazing aquatic abilities could die out with them.

Ever since the deadly tsunami that ravaged the Indian Ocean in 2004, it's been increasingly difficult for the Moken to compete with depleted resources and the encroaching modernization of seaside resorts. While the Thai government has tried to help the people recover from this natural disaster with housing and job training, their altruism has come at the cost of tradition — and, by extension, their incredible underwater abilities.

"You want to help keep people safe and give them the best parts of modern culture, but in doing so they lose their own culture," Gislén said. "They just don’t spend as much time in the sea anymore, so I doubt that any of the children that grow up these days in the tribe have this extraordinary vision."

"Moken are supposed to travel, to be nomadic, to travel freely. So if we cannot travel freely, we are dead, culturally at least," said Hong, a Moken community leader, in an interview with The Guardian. "Moken children use mobile phones, study English and choose to be educated. We've abandoned our old traditions so much we risk losing them entirely."

Moken adults lament Thailand's new ID laws. GIF from Freedive UK/YouTube.

Here's a short video about the amazing Moken people. Because sometimes sharing an incredible story is the only way to keep a struggling culture alive.

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Andy Grammer, the pop singer and songwriter behind feel-good tunes like "Keep Your Head Up," "Back Home," and "Don't Give Up on Me," has a new album out—and it is seriously fabulous. Titled simply "Naive," Grammer says it's "all about how seeing the good in todays world can feel like a rebellious act."

"I wrote this album for the light bringers," Grammer shared on Facebook. "The people who choose to see the good even in the overwhelming chaos of the bad. The smilers who fight brick by brick to build an authentic smile everyday, even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. For those who have been marginalized as 'sweet' or 'cute' or 'less powerful' for being overly positive. To me optimism is a war to be fought, possibly the most important one. If I am speaking to you and you are relating to it then know I made this album for you. You are my tribe. I love you and I hope it serves you. Don't let the world turn down your shine, we all so badly need it."

Reading that, it's easy to think maybe he really is naive, but Grammer's positivity isn't due to nothing difficult ever happening in his life. His mom, Kathy, died of breast cancer when Grammer was 25. He and his mother were very close, and her life and death had a huge impact on him.

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via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

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The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

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