Whether it’s sweltering heat, frigid temperatures, or vicious storms, the human race has been learning how to combat the elements since the beginning of time. It’s just how we’re wired, and how we’ve survived for so long. There is one thing, however, we haven’t figured out: getting by without oxygen.
Oxygen is an absolute necessity to humans (hence mermaids only existing as mythical beings). That being said, one tribe in Malaysia has come pretty darn close to getting by without it. Scientists from around the world are trying to understand these people’s incredible adaptions that are putting Ariel herself to shame.
The idea of a life spent on the water is incredibly romantic. Those breathtaking photos of small homes hovering on the crystal-clear ocean are constantly going viral. Yet, as most of us are fairly committed to dry land, it begs the question: who actually lives there?
While pictures make it seem like living this way would be the ultimate oasis, life on the water comes with it’s own challenges. The Banjau people, who have lived in and on the water surrounding Asia for thousands of years, know a thing or two about its turmoil.
Multiple legends offer accounts of how the Banjau ended up spending 60% of their lives in water. In one, the “sea nomads” are sent to rescue a princess. When they couldn’t retrieve her, they stayed in the water to avoid the king’s wrath.
Another folktale tells of a giant stingray that brought them out to sea. No matter what version, the ending is the same: a group of people that live and work in the ocean. Logistically, there are many things they must work around.
Most members of this tribe scattered across Asia do not have a home at all on the shore. Essential to this lifestyle is their small boats called “lepa-lepa.” The most incredible aspect of their lives on the waves are the homes they have constructed.
Instead of having a traditional foundation, their homes are famously built on stilts rising just above the water’s surface. In the event of a major storm, they will evacuate to the shore. Every other day of their lives is spent out in the ocean.
In their unique situation, they truly live off of what the ocean can provide for them. The Bajau people have become expert divers and fisherman in order to survive. Most often, they utilize spears to catch fish and their diving ability to scour the ocean floor.