The Mermaid Stories
The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

The Mermaid Stories

"Are you a real mermaid?" asked 6-year-old Claire. Readers have been asking about skin and scuba diving, training for triathlon swims and breath hold diving, getting in shape for beach lifeguarding, science of swimming, Navy undersea maneuvers, and many aquatic adventures. Then, at a gathering I attended, the young granddaughter of a friend asked a question.

For the next two weeks or so, I will post Fitness Fixer answers to some of these from the road to teach at the Wilderness Medical conference in Colorado USA. Here is the first story.

It was her birthday. She wore a mermaid costume, and held her gifts of assorted mermaid dolls and toys. Claire loved mermaids. My mother, a Russian circus teacher, came to her party as a surprise and was teaching everyone to juggle scarves. Through the moving scarves, looking like sea waves, one of the mothers pointed my way and said, "Claire, look, that's the lady who lived under the sea - she's a mermaid!"

Claire edged over. She asked, "Are you a REAL mermaid?"

I thought before answering: I had devoted years of research career studying the human body diving deep underwater. I had lived days at a time inside research chambers simulating high and low pressure conditions. I had lived in actual undersea vessels on the sea floor called habitats. I helped test and pilot small submarines. But these were living in air pockets, breathing air. I thought a bit more. I had been a competition swimmer, training 5-7 miles every day, but that was in a pool. The longest I swam at once was 20 miles. Not as much as I imagined a real mermaid could easily swim. I had done open water swims across lakes and in rivers and harbors. I did ice swimming in winter. But that is still just swimming. I am a scuba instructor, who taught students and led trips far underwater. I had my scuba students and dive trip participants dress in costumes and sports clothes and we did underwater tennis, ballroom dancing, drove pedal cars and bicycles underwater, held umbrellas, and did underwater karate. But still, we breathed air from tanks or surface supply hoses, or did long breath hold dives from the surface. I worked with one of the greats in diving medicine who had worked developing liquid breathing long before the movie "The Abyss." I had put myself through school lifeguarding and teaching swimming at a city pool. I had guarded beachfronts, and competed in lifeguard contests, running the beach in a small red swimsuit and red rescue tube, body-paddling a rescue board over crashing waves to dive down and lift a human to the surface like stories of sea-dolphins, or maybe mermaids, buoying drowning sailors. I had lived in Japan and got to study the legendary diving women, spending long deep dives in hazy green cool waters, appearing briefly at the surface with seaweed decorating my long hair. I ate algae and sweet sea grasses. I love the water. I feel at home in the water. Then I spoke, "No."

Claire crinkled her small nose and stomped away. "NOT a REAL mermaid!"

I turned to my friend and asked, "Should I have lied to your child?" She said, "Tell the real stories."

Coming Next - The AmaSan Japanese Diving Women

Previous Mermaid Stories:

Next Two Weeks:

Stories of Previous Year's Journeys to this Conference:

Dr. Bookspan's Books on Diving:
  • Diving Physiology in Plain English - for all divers, novice to instructor.
  • Hyperbaric Medical Review For Board Certification Exams, CHT/CHRN - chamber nursing and technology, to learn and prepare for the CHT (chamber technician) and CHRN (chamber RN) certification tests.
  • Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine Review For Physicians - concise compendium of information physicians need to work in hyperbaric medicine and prepare to pass the board exams, and for anyone interested in the field.
  • All book info -

For the next 2-3 weeks, write in with your success stories and links to your photo sharing site to send your photos, but hold questions. I will have no Internet to answer them while teaching at the conference.

Questions come in by hundreds. I'm bailing the ocean with a bucket. I make posts from fun mail. Before asking more, see if your answers are already here - click labels under posts, links in posts, archives at right, and the Fitness Fixer Index. Why not try fun stuff, then contribute! Read success stories of these methods and send your own.

Subscribe to The Fitness Fixer, free. Click "updates via e-mail" (under trumpet) upper right.
See Dr. Bookspan's Books, take a Class, get certified

Photo by zin2008

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.