An Australian pair of entrepreneurs is aiming to take the risk out of playing in the ocean by developing wetsuits that will either deter or camouflage surfers/divers from lurking sharks.
Hamish Jolly and Craig Anderson, surfers by trade, founded SAMS (Shark Attack Mitigation Systems) in 2011, and since then the pair has been conjuring up ideas for how science can be used to keep thrill seekers of the ocean a bit safer.
With the aid of Professor Shawn Collin and Dr. Nathan Hart from the Western University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, SAMS has now added two more wetsuit designs to its portfolio of anti-shark gears.
The first is a camouflage suit that will help wearers blend in so sharks can’t detect them. Research suggests that sharks are color blind, and so the camouflage suit is painted with the optimum reflectance to keep sharks from seeing the surfer. The concept is very much similar to that of military camouflage gears.
Next is the repellant suit, which is meant to fill a shark with disgust when it sees the patterns. The repellant concept takes into account that sharks don’t like to eat sea snakes, and therefore anything that looks even remotely like it will automatically get knocked off a shark’s radar.
“To adapt this concept for the wetsuit, we provided SAMS with some parameters for the width of the bands based on the spatial resolving power, or visual acuity, of sharks, which determine the distance at which the shark can clearly see the bands,” said Dr. Hart.
Science-wise, there may not be much here since there is something a bit contradictory about the whole idea of doing this type of marine cosplay.
“That striped suit is supposed to look like a lionfish is about as nice a thing as you can do to attract a shark, because of the contrast between dark and light,” commented George Burgess, director at the Florida Program for Shark Research.
As mentioned prior, sharks are likely color blind, but if there’s a distinction between two colors (i.e. black and white) it’s likely that a shark can pin point a prey better than if there were something with less contrast.
SAMS have not made any claims as to the effectiveness of their designs, only that they are currently conducting tests to see if the design works or not. Science or not, according to SAMS, one of the design has proven in the lab (a giant pool with a large shark in it) that it does not attract a shark as much as a regular black neoprene.
Despite some rather shady science, SAMS has already managed to license out its anti-shark tech to Radiator, an Australian wetsuit maker. Moreover, they have already come up with some rather creative names for the two designs, with the camouflage suit now being dubbed as the “Elude” and the repellant variant now called the “Diverter.” Both will go for about $440.