If you look at the numbers, you can tell that humans really were never intended to swim. We’re just not that good at it, especially when you compare our performance to that of fish and other underwater creatures. For most of us, our swimming limitations are not a big deal. For Navy SEALs, however, it can be a big problem. And that’s why a new device revealed back in 2007 might offer superhuman swimming prowess to these Navy soldiers.
Humans’ Water Weaknesses
Even if you ignore the reality that humans can only hold their breath under water for a couple of minutes without having problems, you’ll find reasons why we’re clearly not cut out for high performance swimming. Despite all of kicks and paddles, only about 3% of our efforts are converted into forward movement. Divers who wear fins can actually increase that number to about 10% but that’s still pretty sad. To put things in perspective, a dolphin converts about 80% of its movements into going forward.
The Navy SEALs Solution
Because our poor swimming performance can be a problem for the Navy, the Pentagon started researching ways to overcome this weakness and their answer is known as PowerSwim. The device is strapped onto the swimmer and was designed to mimic the fin movements of the above mentioned dolphins. When the attached fins move, they create lift and thrust which propels the swimmer through the water at a much faster pace. How much faster? According to DARPA (the Pentagon’s research department), a diver wearing the PowerSwim will be able to travel 150% faster than if he or she were wearing fins alone.
Learning to Use the PowerSwim
Just as swimming is something humans have to learn how to do, so is adjusting to the PowerSwim. You can’t simply strap it on and swim like normal. You won’t get anywhere that way. Instead, you have to learn to use different muscle groups in order to propel yourself forward. During DARPA’s testing, the average Navy SEAL needed about two hours to adjust to the new approach which relies more on large muscle groups. Obviously, this reliance is part of the device’s benefits. Using these muscle groups is more efficient.
According to the research and tests, the PowerSwim has done what DARPA and the Pentagon were hoping for: made swimming easier for humans. By mimicking the movements of aquatic animals, they were able to create a device that allows people to swim faster with less exertion. That’s an important goal for the Navy SEALs who are hoping widespread use of the device will allow soldiers to reach military targets via swimming without being exhausted by the time they reach land.
Because of the swimming improvements provided by the device, soldiers could also swim further. However, no plans to increase swimming distance are in the works. For now, the military just wants to make things a bit easier so soldiers won’t be so vulnerable once they make landfall.
This Article is written by James Kara Murat