1. duce7999 says

    **Deep Breath**
    *this is pretty interesting*
    *I don’t see how someone could… buffering… oh fuck me*

  2. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    When I was in submarines I stayed continuously underwater for 65 days! But I didn’t do any fishing.

  3. says

    Start breathing with lungs, and pretty soon you don’t even have gills any more. Then you’re hauling air into the water just to live in the original womb of life.

    Then again, air breathing fits endothermy rather well.

    Glen Davidson

  4. says

    I got to 2:15 on the video but it only started 23 seconds in so I lasted about 1:52, and I’m not exerting myself at all sitting on a chair in front of the computer.

  5. Peristarkawan says

    Don’t forget to hold your nose, too. Otherwise you’ll breathe a little without even realizing you’re doing it.

  6. says

    I’ve held my breathe for more than two minutes while floating in a pool, but to move around like that would cut the time tremendously.

    Two questions: I know he was negatively buoyant, but wouldn’t actually swimming – rather than walking and pushing your whole body through the water- be easier?

    And: How do his goggles not suck his eyeballs out? I could understand no eyewear or a full, nose-covering mask, but I think his eyes would hurt more than his lungs.

  7. MoonShark says

    It’s a lot easier to hold you breath when you don’t have the physical weight of 20m of water against your lungs, nor the psychological weight of that 20m of water between you an a breath to exacerbate your CO2 panic ;)

  8. says

    What is up with the popups on this site? Is that new? They’re not even popups, they’re popunder. I’d expect that from a spam site, but not pharyngula.

  9. says


    Really? When I hold my breath it feels like my airway closes and I can take in any air through my nose without opening it again.

  10. HidariMak says

    IIRC, the Guinness Book of Records for holding your breath is a little over 17 minutes. What the guy in the video does though is still much better than I can pull off.

  11. Peristarkawan says


    Maybe it depends on how you do it. I just remember catching myself doing what I described when I was growing up.

  12. DLC says

    See how well human lungs were Designed ? they even look as if they’re 4x what we need, when in reality teh Designer™ just wanted to make it easier for us to Exercise Dominion over the fishes in the sea. . .

  13. gavinicus says

    I managed to hold my breath as long as hunter-dude, but I was sitting all zen-like on my couch. Still, I was watching a stimulating video at the time. That should count for something.

  14. says

    As a kid I used to practice diving down and found 2 minutes reasonably easy but 40 years of smoking has ended all that – though, now I’ve given up, perhaps I can make it a retirement goal! (I doubt)

  15. Michael Swanson says

    I once held my breath for 2:15. But I wasn’t doing anything but sitting on the couch with a friend as we timed each other. How the hell someone could hold their breath that long whilst simultaneously engaged in activity is beyond me. But then, as I get older and fatter I tend to eschew activity even when I’m not holding my breath.

    Damn. Almost a whole paragraph. I’m pooped.

  16. cody says

    I vaguely recall reading that the lungs of deep sea diving mammals (like sperm whales) collapse due to pressure, forcing all the available oxygen into the blood—in some beneficial way—maybe the same applies here? And swimming might use more energy than walking, though at 30 bpm I imagine activity is pretty limited.

    I can swim pretty far under water, but sitting here in a chair not moving a muscle I only made it to 0:57 the first time (1:30 the second time), and it feels like holding my breath is making my heart beat harder and faster.

  17. Hexahelicene says

    I did not even try to hold my breath. I know I could have done that in high school playing trombone. We did test like this in band.

    I also wonder how many young men in the area try and fail to do this task. If your life depended on it, I wonder how much selective pressure there would be. Just asking.

    Had to comment here. I lack patience to say any ideas for the book title. 950 comments when I looked.

  18. Fraser H says

    I’ve spent a fair bit of time working (and spearing) with spear fishers in Papua New Guinea, and they regularly will hit 20m and stay down for 2-3 minutes at a time. They definitely swim (or crawl) rather than walk along the bottom. There’s also occasional deaths, through shallow water blackout (as Markita Lynda mentioned), although when you talk to other fishers in the village, they tend to blame excessive depth and too many dives. These tend to happen when they’re collecting sea cucumber, rather than spearfishing. Sea cucumber have been fished out shallow, but as they can fetch up to US$80 a kilo, there’s real incentive for collectors to push themselves.

  19. Grayarea says

    My longest breath hold is 6:26. One trick is not to just take a big breath and hold it, but to stimulate the mammalian diving reflex which slows your heart and constricts bloodflow to the extremeties. Cold water on the face helps to stimulate this but with training some freedivers can develop a strong reflex just from breath holding.
    By the way, the world depth record for freediving without fins or other assistance is now 101m and is being extended every year by William Trubridge of New Zealand.
    Breath holding (static apnea) is up to 11:35…

  20. Chris says

    Maybe I’m way off here but to do what this man did having no apparent weight pulling him to the bottom he would have had to expel all the air from his lungs to sink and stay down like that.So if I’m correct he didn’t hold his breath for that long,he did it with no air in his lungs.Which makes that feat even more amazing,and if you watch when he surfaces the first thing he does is take a breath,not expel the first one.

  21. Grayarea says

    Chris, he is filling his lungs completely for the dive, but as Attenborough explains the increased pressure at 20m causes his lung volume to contract to one-third. This would reduce his buouyancy by about 4 to 5 kilograms which explains his negative buouyancy at the bottom.
    The safest technique upon surfacing is to release only about a third of your air before inhaling fully and repeating this a few times. Avoiding a full exhale reduces the risk of a rapid drop in remaining oxygen which could lead to a full or partial blackout.

  22. Chris says

    Didn’t know that,Thanks for the info :D I know there were camera cuts but I really didn’t see any bubbles on his way up though.That along with him inhaling as he first surfaces made me think he had actually exhaled before diving.

  23. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I have a very difficult time believing claims of holding one’s breath for 11 minutes, let alone 17. Very difficult.

  24. says

    Managed to hold my breath for the required time but only just!
    Quietly listening to the heartbeat in the video seemed to help extend my time. Plus I made sure to breathe deeply several times before taking my final breath.
    (At least, I think that’s what you are supposed to do)
    Can’t imagine doing any physical activity though. That’s way beyond my lung capacity.
    Great video.

  25. Grayarea says

    Static apnea world records attempts are performed face down in water and have to follow strict rules like any sporting world record. The times of 15-17 minutes or whatever have been done by breathing up on pure oxygen and are not recognised by the sporting bodies. Considering pure oxygen is considered a drug, it’s the very definition of performance-enhancing!

  26. McCthulhu doesn't breathe so has nothing to hold says

    “…and you see Timmy, this is from where whales evolved…”

    If you need the transitional fossil evidence, look no further than Patrick Duffy.

  27. air1010 says

    I got myself too excited; exhaled at 2:55, should’ve closed my eyes.

    –Skinny 5’8″ tall islander from the Philippines. :P

  28. Kieran says

    2:55 but I was sitting at a desk not exactly the same thing at all. I think you’ll find that was John Hurt doing the narating not attenbourgh.

  29. passerby says

    “Solben can go even deeper than this, and stay down for up to five minutes. But he’s not one to show off…”

    I saw that and I was like “Dude! Just go to the fish market! They do all the work for you.” (Trying to joke in my best Mitch Hedburg.)

    I think I can hold my breath, while under exertion, for about 45 seconds to a minute, and I usually run 14:30 on my 2-mile runs. What he is doing is incredible, even without the weight of the water pressure holding his lungs down like they are.

  30. David Marjanović, OM says

    Maybe it depends on how you do it. I just remember catching myself doing what I described when I was growing up.

    I’m almost incapable of just stopping breathing without closing my glottis. You know, the interruptor in the throat.

  31. says

    I used to be able to last 2:15 when I was (very much) younger. But having smoked for a good 10 years (gave up a long time ago) my lung capacity is reduced. I can now manage about 1:30 with my head under water. Mind you, that is at rest.

    He did well sure, but people go much deeper, and for much longer.

    Also, the final conclusion of the commentary is dubious to say the least.

  32. Jem says

    1:10. In my defense I have the flu and mild asthma, but still pathetic for a 19-year-old non-smoker.

    Is this an excerpt from a documentary? It looks familiar.

  33. Carlie says

    Given that drowning is on the top of my “how I don’t want to die” list, I won’t be engaging in this experiment. There could be nightmares.

  34. Gregory says

    Evolution in action: The longer a person can stay under water, the better he is able to feed his family, the more children he has. Rinse and repeat every generation. Given enough generations of such selection, H. sapiens has a new subspecies.

  35. David Utidjian says

    I didn’t even try to hold my breath… but instead concentrated on enjoying the video.

    I used to be able to (I haven’t tried in over ten years) be able to hold my breath not for a specific time but to swim the length of a swimming pool (high school, college, health club) for five lengths on one breath. I am not sure how far that is in total. Perhaps 100-150 yards? It took a while to develop the trick and then practice.

    Part of the trick is not trying for speed. Use the most efficient strokes (sort of like a frog) and glide as much as possible. Stay as relaxed as possible with no thrashing about. Note how the diver in the video does nothing frantic, not even his ascent at the end of the dive is rushed.

    It is also not surprising that the diver has negative buoyancy. I have the same problem… I have a difficult time staying on the surface with a full breath of air. If I let a little out I sink pretty fast. Also as the diver goes deeper and the pressure compresses the air in his lungs his density will increase and he will become even more negatively buoyant.

    The main advantage I can see for the diver standing and walking on the bottom is that, for humans, the easiest way to scan all around looking for prey is by standing. The prone position as in swimming along is much more limited for surveying an area. Fish are also easier to see and spear from the side than from on top.

    Cool video.

  36. claimthehighground says

    …and on the sixth day before the moon and the stars rose in the evening sky, God said, “Let there be breath holding.” And there was breath holding, and it was good. Really, I read this over at Answers in Genesis. So what’s the big deal PZ?

  37. joep says

    2 1/2 minutes? big deal! if you have any brains, you’re gonna have to hold your breath until november 2012, and probably for 4 years after that!

  38. Dhorvath, OM says

    I can make about 1:30, but once exertion is added, it’s more like 45 seconds. I never got a second length (25 metres per length in most sport pools) completed even while swimming competitively.

  39. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Narrator: “Perhaps the idea of humans existing as marine mammals is not so far-fetched after all.”

    Was that a nod to Aquatic Ape crackpottery?

  40. calladus says

    When I was young, fit, and stationed on Okinawa Japan, I used to snorkel and SCUBA dive all the time. I had a resting heart rate in the low 50’s.

    At my best, I could free dive about 40 ~ 50 feet down. I could stay under and active for about 2:45. It was actually easier to hold my breath after I got below 20 feet or so.

    On coming up, I would exhale a little at the surface to clear my snorkel, then breath somewhat rapidly. I’d hang on the surface until my breathing returned to normal before I tried it again.

    Of course, I had a facemask, snorkel, weight belt, a good set of fins, dive knife, collection bag, wrist mounted depth gauge, and waterproof watch.

    How could this guy equalize pressure in his goggles? I think it would be painful. I didn’t see him blowing bubbles.

  41. uncle frogy says

    while holding his breath is impressive I wont even attempt it. That alone would not do much to increase his survivability. He still moves slow and is rather helpless in the water whether at the surface or at the bottom.
    It is his three tools that make it a practical way to feed himself, his boat,his goggles and his spear.
    without our ability to invent so many different kinds of tools (including language) we would just be a small ape in some small niche environment.
    uncle frogy

  42. Scott Shannon says

    I made it to 2:25 and I started when he submerged. Of course I was sitting in my chair instead of hunting.

    Quitting smoking was certainly the best decision of my life… ick.

  43. says

    CompulsoryAccount7746 #53 – I was scanning comments looking for someone else that picked up on the aquatic ape thing at the end of the video. What’s up with that, is it really crackpottery? I only know about it through a TED video I saw.

  44. Menyambal says

    I was watching the guy’s feet. The first time I saw the vid on TV, I startled my wife by whooping, “He’s sculling with his feet!”.

    Look at his feet as he descends. He isn’t moving his feet in a toes-pointed-forward walking/kicking/swimfin motion like most folks do when swimming. He has twisted his feet so his toes are outward, and is sculling back and forth using his foot as a foil.

    It’s hard to explain, but the efficiency is much greater with the length of his foot in play, rather than the width. I’d never thought of anybody doing it, but once I saw it, I did whoop.

    Seriously, that guy doing that is the kind of thing that would lead to an evolutionary step. It’s a behavior that would allow further generations that copied it to evolve longer and skinnier feet, and gradually fins like dolphin tails. (It’d be a two-part tail, but it could happen.)

    It’s also interesting in that such a foot-sculling behavior might well have been part of an Aquatic Ape culture, but would have disappeared without a trace once people forgot about doing it. Other behaviors may well have been lost as well.

  45. juju says

    Lets get one thing straight regarding the Aquatic Ape Theory/Hypothesis and this guy diving for food. The AAT/H suggest that the human phenotype evolved partially because of an aquatic period we went through at some point after separating from our common ancestor with chimps. I haven’t seen any good evidence that it happened and I think all the arguments for the theory have better explanations that require fewer leaps of intellectual dishonesty which are constructed by preconceived biases and logical fallacies.

    As for this guy diving for food. This is just a modern human who was taught how to swim (or else he’d probably drown) and take advantage of the human ability to hold his breath in order to find a food source that humans discovered fairly recently in our history.

    No need to postulate us as having been “marine mammals” in our evolutionary past.