My dad was born on the island of Java, but not only that: I imagine some of my ancestors to have lived throughout the archipelago and beyond, to modern day Malaysia, the Philippines, even northern Asia. When I daydream about where parts of me have come from, I too think back to humankind's earliest origins, of our reliance on rivers and lakes and oceans for food. But in James Nestor's Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves, we learn that even our recent ancestors were, in their way, masters of the ocean.
Beginning with his observation of the world's elite freedivers in various extraordinary competitions, to descriptions of efforts to communicate with dolphins, to the lightless abysses of the ocean floor (where creatures undiscovered may still linger in a world completely unlike ours), and finally to a meeting with the last surviving Ama, a group of Japanese women who freedive hundreds of feet for food, even today, Nestor entertains and educates, lingering just long enough in the storytelling, but not too long, before coming back to the surface to reveal what was found in the depths.
This one, paired with What Doesn't Kill Us, reminded me of voyages in Indonesian waters and snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef, and thus got me off my couch and back in the lake near my Minnesota home, swimming in rather cold water, seeking an understanding of what my body is capable of, and to perhaps know better its relationship, and therefore all people's relationship, to the water, from rivers to lakes to oceans.