Feel like your kid is actually a child with superpowers that just haven’t been found yet, but they’re there, bound to surface at any moment? If you’re part of the Moken tribe of coastal Thailand, you’d be right-only the superpowers have already surfaced, and they’re underwater.
Moken kids can see clearly when swimming, because they have eyes that can change shape, adapting to the water just like a dolphin.
Anna Gislen a researcher at the University of Lund, in Sweden is the one who discovered the magic.
In 1999, Gislen traveled to the island archipelagos on the Andaman Sea, along the western coast of Thailand to study these unique people who live in small tribes, in traditional house hoisted on poles, along the beach.
There, Gislen conducted a simple experiment using lines on a card. She asked the tribe’s children, who dive regularly for fish, to count the number of lines on each card, when underwater.
Each time the children dived down, the lines on the card grew thinner, making them harder to see.
And what was found? In this seeming paradise, it was determined that the Moken children could see on land just as well as their European counterparts, but, strikingly, twice as well, underwater.
By measuring pupil size, it was revealed that the tribal children were able to constrict their pupils to the limit of human performance. But this by itself wouldn’t have been enough to improve the kids’ sight so drastically underwater-something that led Gislen to believe that the lens of the eye was also changing.
“We had to make a mathematical calculation to work out how much the lens was accommodating in order for them to see as far as they could,” Gislen is quoted as saying in an article in bbc.com.
“Normally when you go underwater, everything is so blurry that the eye doesn’t even try to accommodate, it’s not a normal reflex,” said Gislen. “But the Moken children…can make their pupils smaller and change their lens shape. Seals and dolphins have a similar adaptation.”
Somewhat sadly, the adults in the tribe who were tested had lost the ability to accommodate their eyes to swimming. Gislen attributed this to the fact that, when we age, our lenses become less flexible.
But interestingly enough, it seems like the Moken might not be the only kids around who can achieve this special feat of sight. Maybe all kids can.
Some children traveling from Europe for an extended stay on the beaches of Thailand, and a group back in Sweden were also asked to participate in the underwater line test.
And guess what?
In 11 sessions spread out over an entire month, both groups had attained the same underwater reading ability of the Moken children: over time and with practice, they were able to see more and more clearly under the waves.
“It was different for each child, but at some point their vision would just suddenly improve,” Gislen is quoted as saying. “I asked them whether they were doing anything different and they said, ‘No, I can just see better now’.”
So, maybe your kid’s got it too, they just haven’t found out yet. Dolphin powers. A good reason to take them swimming every day next summer, and to ask them to look for some sea cucumbers while they’re at it.
After a while they can possibly see them clearly. And maybe they can look for some sunken treasure, while they’re at it. It can’t hurt. It’s all about the natural forces of nature.