Day 150: Reconnect with your aquatic origins…

“…by spending all of today underwater.”

This was tough.

I didn’t have easy access to a body of water that I could spend all day in — no swimming pools, no ponds, no stock tanks — so I spent all day in the bathtub. And by all day, I mean about an hour and a half.

It was the most boring ninety minutes of my life. The water was nice and hot for about twenty minutes, and lukewarm for another fifteen, and then it was cold. I turned into a prune, and then into a mummy, and then I began collapsing in on myself like a black hole. I wasn’t in a sensory deprivation chamber — I was in a bathroom, with the lights on, and with people knocking on the door and asking what the hell was going in there — but I started hallucinating at some point: flying monkeys and talking rocks and faceless men in bowler hats.

I don’t feel like a fish. I don’t feel like a walrus. I don’t feel like a shark, or a dolphin, or a clam, or a krill, or a giant squid.

I don’t like large bodies of water, and I don’t want to “reconnect with my aquatic origins.” Water is a necessary element — you can’t make beer without it — but it’s somewhat inhospitable in large quantities. If I’d spent all day (ninety minutes) in a larger container of water, even something as big as a hot tub or a children’s wading pool, I’d probably have drowned, or lost my mind and set something large and wooden on fire.

If you were to get dropped, alone, just yourself, in the middle of nowhere, a hundred miles from the nearest town, on land, you’d have a decent chance of surviving and getting back to civilization (at least if you’ve ever been outside in ‘nature’ before). If you were to get dropped in the ocean, a hundred miles from land, you’d be fucked. If you had an inflatable raft, it might take a little longer for you to die, but you’d probably still die.

Water doesn’t like you. It puts up with you, when there are small quantities of it, but when enough of it gets together you’d be wise to steer clear of it. In this, it’s like fire ants: if you find eight or a dozen walking along the sidewalk, you can stomp them or jeer at them or piss on them or whatever, but if you fuck with a colony they’re going to eat you alive.

What fire ants have to do with a bath, I have no idea. I guess I’m still recovering.

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2 Comments on “Day 150: Reconnect with your aquatic origins…”

  1. Steve Goldsmith says:

    We do all have aquatic origins, and I sometimes try to embrace my inner fish. Water is necessary for all living organisms, because organisms are, at a fundamental level, exceedingly complex chemical reactions in an aqueous medium (and thus need water to maintain their reactions). But for terrestrial multicellular eukaryotic ingestive heterotrophs that are homeothermic endotherms (e.g. terrestrial mammals and birds), the aquatic environment is by and large inhospitable. Because of the high specific heat capacity of water, body heat produced by metabolism is quickly lost to the aquatic environment, and a homeothermic endotherm becomes hypothermic. Hypothermia is a bad thing – it will kill you within minutes. I refer to this phenomenon as the “Leonardo DiCaprio Principle,” because the last part of the movie Titanic portrayed Leo hanging on to a bit of wall panel, with Kate Winslet sitting on the wall panel and most of Leo’s body in the North Sea. The temperature of the water in the North Sea would have been about 4oC. At that temperature, Leo would have become hypothermic in about 4 minutes. He would have slipped below the surface and died, thus mercifully ending the movie about 40 minutes sooner than it actually did end.

    The flip side of the Leo diCaprio Principle is the problem of heat stroke. Homeothermic endotherms in hot environments face the problem of maintaining their body temperature in a range that allows their reactions to function. Hyperthermia is also a bad thing – a body temperature much above the normal body temperature endangers the functioning of the entire organism. For humans, evaporation of water from the skin surface (sweating) is a physiological attempt to maintain the body’s temperature within the thermoneutral zone. If the body cannot cool itself because of lack of water, high environmental humidity, or large body size (due to surface area versus body volume considerations – subject of another post), heat exhaustion and heat stroke may be the result. Heat stroke is a catastrophic medical emergency that can result in sudden death if not treated immediately.

    Hypothermia and hyperthermia kill dozens, maybe hundreds, of people annually, in the US alone.


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