Book Review: ’Why We Swim’ by Bonnie Tsui
One step, another, and a hop outward.
Somersault once, kick back, arms up, and knife cleanly through the surface of the water like a sword through cake. Clean. Not a drop out of place in that dive, hardly a splash. So why did you do it? Says Bonnie Tsui in "Why We Swim," there could be many reasons.
If there's one thing you know about summertime, it's that it can get hot. Like, melt-your-shoes hot, crispy-grass hot, sweat-til-you're-wet hot. And that's when any size pool of water starts to look mighty tempting. But, says Tsui, "We ... are not natural-born swimmers ..." Throw us in the water and, without lessons, we flail.
Lessons aside, though, cave art discovered in 1933 shows that humans have been swimming for at least 10,000 years and they probably learned how by watching those who figured it out even before them. That likely happened in the Green Sahara, where there were once verdant meadows and cool pools.
Bottom line: We are land animals that are attracted to water, and not just to drink. Scientists call us secondary swimmers although, in some cultures, it seems as though our fellow humans are half-fish. Hailing from southeast Asia, the Moken people can see underwater in ways that most of us can't; many Bajau from the same area are born with spleens that allow them to stay underwater for minutes, rather than the pathetic seconds most of us can manage. Japanese ama are able to deep-dive hundreds of times a ...
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