Deep Thinking About The Master Switch of Life

Deep Thinking About The Master Switch of Life

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

James Nestor writes in DEEP: Life, Death & Amphibious Humans at the Last Frontier on Earth, “Freediving amid marine life is the most direct and intimate way to connect with the ocean.”

Nestor learns to freedive and unveils startling facets of human physiology, most prominently the life-preserving reflexes known as the Master Switch of Life.

While a vast majority of open water swimmers do not freedive, they do sit on the surface of the ocean and look downwards as they swim for many, many kilometers and many, many hours over the course of their career. While the free divers go vertical amid the marine life down towards the depths, open water swimmers stay horizontal amid the marine life across great distances.

Both types of aquatic athletes are have the time, luxury and opportunity to connect with the ocean and its denizens.

Sometimes, the interactions can be downright harmful (jellyfish stings) and sometimes, the interactions can be profoundly enjoyable (whale sightings and dolphin encounters).

Both the most talented free divers and amateur open water swimmers often push themselves to extremes while internally weighing the significant risks inherent in the open water and almost inexplicably balancing the demands of work, family and training.

For two wildly different disciplines, there are a number of commonalities that bind each other in a love of the open water:

* free divers and swimmers often push themselves to see how far they can go without grievous harm to themselves
* free divers and swimmers often finish a punishing event with a smile on their face
* free divers and swimmers often demonstrate physiological feats that scientists often think impossible
* free divers and swimmers often come face-to-face with marine life of all types
* free divers and swimmers often are limited in what they can see and hear
* free divers and swimmers often conduct their respective sports in the dark with limited visibility
* free divers and swimmers often conduct their respective sports with surprisingly slow heart rates
* free divers and swimmers can relate to each other’s experiences much better than drylands athletes can

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