NATGEO: Real Life ATLANTIS & ATLANTEANS can be found in the Philippines

For hundreds of years, the Bajau have lived at sea, and natural selection may have made them genetically stronger divers.

'Sea Nomads' Are First Known Humans Genetically Adapted to Diving

For hundreds of years, the Bajau have lived at sea, and natural selection may have made them genetically stronger divers.

Most people can hold their breath underwater for a few seconds, some for a few minutes. But a group of people called the Bajau takes free diving to the extreme, staying underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depths of around 200 feet. These nomadic people live in waters winding through the Philippines where they dive to hunt for fish or search for natural elements that can be used in crafts.

Now, a study in the journal Cell offers the first clues that a DNA mutation for larger spleens gives the Bajau a genetic advantage for life in the deep.

Leaning on the Spleen

Of all the organs in your body, the spleen is perhaps not the most glamorous. You can technically live without it, but while you have it, the organ helps support your immune system and recycle red blood cells.

Previous work showed that in seals, marine mammals that spend much of their life underwater, spleens are disproportionately large. Study author Melissa Llardo from the Center for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen wanted to see if the same characteristic was true for diving humans. The sea nomads has impressive legendary abilities. Bajau person's spleen was 50 percent bigger than the same organ in a Saluan individual. “If there's something going on at the genetic level, you should have a certain sized spleen. There we saw this hugely significant difference,” she says.

Llardo theorizes that over time, natural selection would have helped the Bajau, who have lived in the region for a thousand years, develop the genetic advantage.


There are superhumans like this Badjao tribesman from the Philippines who can hold his breath even longer. But that’s not all! Armed with only swim goggles and a badass blowspear, he dives a depth of nearly 65 feet on the ocean floor to hunt for his lunch.

What’s even more amazing is that this guy hunts fishes down the bottom of the sea as if he was hunting on land. He walks through the ocean floor and corals like it was a walk in the park. We know how difficult it is to resist water pressure of even just 20 feet, just imagine what it’s like for 65 feet!

Aside from that, he has to hold his breath for a couple of minutes. Though he managed to catch the fish in about three minutes, (thanks to him not only being an excellent diver, but a sharpshooter as well!) the best Badjao divers can hold their breath until 13 Minutes underwater.


The Legendary Sea Nomads

No, they aren’t mermaids or anything. But, yeah they do thrive on the ocean floor and its every bit is jaw dropping as it sounds.

They spend some 60 percent of their working hours in the sea. Really. More than half of their awake time is spent inside the sea. I bet the kids of Bajau tribe are the luckiest ones.

They are so well adapted to water that in order to forage for food, they dive to the depths of up to 230 feet below the surface. And just so you know, they do this without any specific diving gears or oxygen cylinders.

Bajau divers begin their training very young and these divers are known to hold their breath for several minutes at a time. No kidding.

They have larger spleens and their body has adapted to their lifestyle. Which is why they are so casual even when they dive.

Their genes have modified so that they can lead a better life underwater. It’s like mother nature is giving them a helping hand.


Sunken Cemetery

A cemetery and the town it served sinks beneath the sea during the volcanic birth of Mt. Vulcan.

There are no flowers or gravestones to mark the resting places of the lost citizens of Camiguin – only a giant cross rising up out of the water to mark where this place of rest once was.

In the 1870s, a volcano near this place erupted and caused the cemetery along with the capital city surrounding it to sink below sea level. In order to commemorate this place of loss, a looming cross was built in remembrance. Visitors all over the Philippines and the world come to admire this man-made marvel filled with legend and enchantment.

Some say a feeling of loneliness will hit you once you see this structure standing all alone in the middle of the sea. A place of reverence and reflection, the site is accessible by boat and visitors can stand on its small base while it remains above water. Many take the small boat ride in order to take photos and soak in the view of Mt. Vulcan, the volcano that sacrificed the people of Camiguin to the sea when it came into being.



The Sunken Cemetery in Camiguin is one of the most popular attractions on the island and an adventure not to be missed! You can go snorkeling at the Camiguin Sunken Cemetery and spot old tombstones and crosses as well as an abundance of marine life!


What once was a cemetery that resided on land was forced to depths below the sea level following a volcanic eruption on Camiguin Island in 1870. The natural disaster brought the city to rubble and caused the cemetery to subside.

A giant cross was later built in remembrance to the deceased that lay in the cemetery that once was. It is truly an iconic landmark displaying the rich history of Camiguin and its people.


The Sunken Cemetery of Camiguin Island

Camiguin is an island province of the Philippines located in the Bohol Sea, about 10 kilometers off the northern coast of Mindanao. The island of Camiguin is of volcanic origin and composed of four young stratovolcanoes overlying older volcanic structures. These include Mt. Vulcan and Mount Hibok-Hibok, still considered active having last erupted in 1953.

During the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vulcan that lasted from 1871 to about 1875, after continuously spewing out lava into the sea, it gained a height of nearly 2,000 feet and submerged areas of Catarman, including the town’s cemetery. Today, all that remains of old Catarman are the ruins of an ancient Spanish San Roque church, a convent and a bell tower. Remnants of the structures and gravestones of the cemetery were still seen during low tide until 1948 when Mount Vulcan erupted for the fourth time, which buried the area deeper by 20 feet. In 1982, a large cross was built on the solidified lava to mark this old gravesite.


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