The premise of Liquid Breathing has long been a fancy of sci-fi novelists and visionaries who apply the gimmick to space travel (think multi-lightyear stasis or hibernation) as much as underwater exploration. For the latter we find the most popular example in James Cameron’s 1989 blockbuster film The Abyss. Noted for a real-world no-magic-trick scene in which a rat is filmed breathing underwater, the whole notion of Liquid Breathing is portrayed – not once but twice – as being, you guessed it, normal!
Here’s the first scene with conspiracy theorist and rat aficionado Alan ‘Hippy’ Carnes (Todd Graff) & best-rigger-name-ever Catfish De Vries (Leo Burmester) who confront a Navy S.E.A.L. about some of the tech they’ve brought aboard (underboard?) and question it’s authenticity – “Bullshit!” – to which the sea, air, and land commando has a convenient test ready to show them how it operates:
No bullshit, actually. As noted, that scene was recorded as-is. For whatever reason rats are by-design – for hours at a time – able to breathe “oxygenated liquid chemical compound[s]” as demonstrated in this History channel video which rightfully does suggest that lungs will mechanically extract oxygen by any means necessary. Brilliantly, this video contains its own normal reference:
even if we could overcome the instincts and reflexes that tell us not to breathe water, normal, unassisted lungs simply could not extract enough oxygen from water to survive.
OK so a rat is one thing, but what about a human? For whatever reason, Cameron felt the need to really drive in the ‘it’s perfectly normal’ angle with both Liquid Breathing scenes. But this one really drives it in, with not one or two or even three but six utterances of the word normal, including a shouting match about what is and isn’t normal about breathing liquid air:
Turns out that what’s perfectly normal actually “feels weird.” Funny that.