Huxley’s grandfather takes him to swimming lessons every week, and between grand-dad and mom, Huxley goes to a pool about once a month outside of “class.” This has been going on for about two years, and Huxley is about two years old. I estimate that this particular toddler has been in the pool for an extended period well over 100 times, and probably more times than I’ve been in a pool over my entire life.

He can do something like 11 bananas. If you know what that means, then, well, you know what I mean. Otherwise don’t worry about it.

By the way, did you know that toddlers naturally sink? So much for the Aquatic Ape Theory!

When Huxley gets older he’ll be a great swimmer, and that will keep him relatively safe at the lake, on boats, etc. But safe isn’t perfectly safe, and even experienced swimmers have to watch out for themselves and for each other. And, this is the time of year to remind everyone what drowning looks like.

Drowning, it turns out, does not look like drowning. It often looks like nothing at all. From your point of view at the pool side, in the cabana, at the beach, or on the boat, drowning simply looks like this: The person simply isn’t there any more because they quietly slipped to the bottom of the water after quietly struggling mostly out of your sight.

The new captain jumped from the deck, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the couple swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. “Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know – from fifty feet away – what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten?…

Read that here.

Drowning is the second most common cause of accidental death among children. Between 500 and 1000 Americans under the age of 15 will drown this year, about half of them within 25 feet of an adult who does not see it happening, and in about one in ten cases the parent will be watching as it happens, watching the kid drown, not realizing what they are seeing.

Thank you for reading this seasonal, timely public service announcement. Coming soon: Brown Recluse Spider Warnings!

Comments

  1. #1 Wow
    April 3, 2012

    “By the way, did you know that toddlers naturally sink? So much for the Aquatic Ape Theory!”

    And fish naturally float (at least when they die), whilst sharks (not noted for being land-based) sink.

    Though I suspect you were being humorous.

    And, yup, for me, that’s the scary bit about swimming: if you’re drowning, the only thing happening is you’re sinking. If you’re swimming *badly*, there’s all that waving and splashing and spluttering. But when you’re actually drowning, you’re going quietly.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    April 3, 2012

    Well, no. Fish that are alive don’t float, and sharks that are alive do OK swimming as well. Living human toddlers can’t swim. They automatically hold their breath, more or less, and have other helpful reactions to being tossed in the water (as to mammals in general), but they don’t swim.

    This could be an argument against the Aquatic Ape Theory. There is in fact a counter argument to this, but it is not my place to make it. I’ll let the AAT apologist find this discussion and insert it, if they know it. But I doubt they do! Hahahaha!

  3. #3 Wow
    April 3, 2012

    “and sharks that are alive do OK swimming as well”

    But they will sink. No swim bladder.

    As will flatfish. Lost it to help it work sitting on the bottom without having to expend energy staying there.

    Living human toddlers can swim very easily: they spend the previous 9 months swimming in a very warm and small pool… What they can’t do is breathe underwater.

    But I don’t think the Aquatic Ape was intended to have gills. It wasn’t the precursor of Patrick Duffy as Aquaman…

  4. #4 Chas
    April 3, 2012

    And then there’s dry drowning: death from suffocation resulting from aspiration of water or other substance or fluid. My wife was tumbled by a little wave at the beach, inhaled some seawater and experienced trouble breathing the next morning. Medics said she could have died from it if we had waited too long to call for help. They explained that children especially have trouble because they’ll go to sleep and stop breathing during the night hours after swimming.

  5. #5 Russell
    April 3, 2012

    I don’t buy the aquatic ape hypothesis. For lots of reasons.

    On the other hand, I suspect homo has been fishing and exploiting marine resources as long as he has been cooking.

  6. #6 Isilzha
    April 3, 2012

    I ran across a website a few years ago about what drowning usually looks like and I was shocked. I had no idea that my perception of drowning was so wrong and obviously formed by TV/Movies ideas of drowning. I spent a couple hours of my life learning about the real behavior of those who are drowning and trying to erase all my erroneous “knowledge”.

    The more we REALLY know, indeed!

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    April 4, 2012

    Russell, the evidence suggests that cooking may go back to close to 2 million years or so, but use of aquatic resources on a sufficiently regular basis to convince archaeologists may date to much later, less than a quarter of a million years here and there, much more recently in many other areas.

  8. #8 Wow
    April 4, 2012

    It would be much easier to keep a fire going if there’s no tide to come in, Greg.

    Genetically you’d have to look at what the essential fatty acids would do if you never had had fish before (or very very little), then moved to where the diet would include a vast proportion of fish and see what biological changes would likely result and check for when they turned up.

    As to Russell: “For lots of reasons” and 50p you can buy yourself a chocolate bar. Got any actual ones?

  9. #9 F
    April 5, 2012

    Dude. Thanks for the refresher and reminder.

  10. #10 Jake
    April 6, 2012

    Spending 9 months under water with no need to keep your face above it doesn’t count as swimming. That’s a terrible argument.

    Toddlers can’t keep their heads above water unassisted, hence they can’t swim for the only definition of ‘swim’ that could possibly be relevant to this discussion.

  11. #11 hoary puccoon
    April 6, 2012

    I’ve been involved 3 times in saving someone from drowning.

    The first time, I pulled a 12 year old kid from an apartment house pool. (I was 8 months pregnant at the time.) When I ripped into the mother for not watching her kid, she said she was, too, watching him. She was upstairs in her apartment watching television but WITH THE BALCONEY DOOR OPEN! So he could call her if he got into trouble!!! Of course, with his face under water, he couldn’t call anyone.

    The other two incidents were at lakes, in front of dozens of people. In both cases, the potential drowning victim was making plenty of commotion, although not enunciating clearly. On the order of, “HE…glug…gurgle..choke…LP!” In both cases, however, other people just didn’t register there was really a problem. After I started to respond, swimmers who were much faster than I was jumped in and did the actual rescue. (In one case, the actual rescuer was my daughter who had been my involuntary colleague in the first rescue. Instead of being traumatized by her prenatal adventure, she grew up to be a competitive swimmer.)

    So, yes, people can drown right in front of oblivious bystanders. But it’s not like there’s no sign someone’s in trouble. The take-home message is, never forget that water is *not* our natural habitat. Have fun, but stay alert.

  12. #12 Calli Arcale
    April 9, 2012

    Water is an immensely destructive force. Worse than fire in some respects. At least you can put a fire out; water has to be physically removed. And although fire can strip a landscape of much of its vegetation, water has the potential to remove the landscape itself. (Note: I do not count lava as “fire”. Lava can start fires. It’s not fire itself.)

    And it’s so easy for it to kill us. Exactly why I think everyone should get their children enrolled in water safety classes.

    Wow @ 3:

    As will flatfish. Lost it to help it work sitting on the bottom without having to expend energy staying there.

    I have a fishtank with lots of little pleocostomas in it. (The sort that only grow to 2″ and are useful for controlling algae.) They’re like that too. No swim bladders. When they die, they sink. Actually, the guppies usually sink when they die as well — and then the plecos generally take care of them before we can. *If* we spot a corpse, it’s usually down to a partial skeleton by that time, and then it doesn’t seem like there’s much point removing it.

    Living human toddlers can swim very easily: they spend the previous 9 months swimming in a very warm and small pool… What they can’t do is breathe underwater.

    No, toddlers were not swimming for 9 months previously. For one thing, the uterine environment isn’t a swimming pool; just ask a mother how cramped the baby feels inside there. For another, a toddler is not a newborn. It’s been at least a year since the baby was in utero. If newborns really do have a swimming reflex, as the water-birthing advocates claim, they definitely lose it by toddlerhood.

Current ye@r *