It has been reported in the mainstream media that the number of unprovoked shark attacks in North America has risen in the past few months, as well as in other popular holiday destinations. Now, this probably won’t stop you from sitting on the beach and having a little dip in the sea, will it? However, if you are an avid surfer or diver, you may be more cautious. For you, SAMS (Shark Attack Mitigation Systems) have designed a range of funky (also lifesaving) wet suits, to deter those fins you daren’t ever want to see lurking around.
Divers and surfers are true risk takers, as ‘Jaws situations’ can occur at any time. In Jaws, a great white shark terrorises the residents of Amity Island, but in reality a variety of sharks that can attack. The most serious injuries are mainly caused by tiger sharks which can grow up to 16 feet long - not exactly the easiest of creatures to fight off!
Although it may not seem like it, designing shark-repelling wetsuits requires breakthrough scientific research to reveal how sharks see the world and use their senses to hunt prey - as humans may also be on today’s menu. To us humans, the patterns may look relatively plain and simple, however, they are carefully designed using a formula which describes how well the shark perceives colour and contrast at different depths of water.
SAMS is a company located down under in Perth, Australia, where shark attacks are most likely. Their wetsuits combine visual contrast, colours, shapes and patterns to impact how sharks perceive objects and therefore deter them from attacking. As it has been found that sharks see in black and white, contrast and shapes play a vital role in detection of prey. It has been noted by marine biologists that disruptive colours and contrasts are seen in the scales of pilot fish (Naucrates ductor) – which are the only fish to spend time safely in close proximity to sharks.
SAMS have created a unique formula allowing people to choose the correct wetsuit for their water sport, to provide the optimum protection against shark. The perfect colour combination depends on several variables, including: colour, contrast, size, shape, depth and distance.
There are two different types of wetsuits that have been developed. SAMS CrypticTM pattern makes the diver or swimmer appear less visible to the shark – meaning even Bruce from Finding Nemo couldn’t eye you up for dinner. The second is the SAMS WarningTM pattern, designed with surfers in mind, which makes the wearer appear as an object not suitable for eating or possibly even poisonous.
You may be wondering if a wetsuit can guarantee that you won’t be attacked. The answer, you’re probably not surprised to hear, is: no, but the science is pretty robust. Through thorough field testing it has been concluded that although the wetsuits aren’t 100% failsafe (sharks are wild animals, after all!), they do significantly reduce the probability of a shark attack.
Another way in which these rare (but, of course, deadly) attacks can be evaded, is with the ‘Clever Buoy’ sonar technology - SAMS’ newest development, in partnership with Optus and Google. This shark detection technology is the first non-invasive detection primarily used to protect not only people, but also sharks getting hurt, and is being developed throughout Australia. It shouldn’t be forgotten that sharks are majestic creatures – so it is a necessity to protect them as well as ourselves, in the interests of biodiversity and morality. Clever Buoy is able to distinguish between the size of the object and the speed at which it passes through the water, and this data could be potentially life-saving, allowing lifeguards to warn and evacuate people quickly if needed.
Now, with all the latest technology, you can now dive, surf and swim (if you’re brave enough) to your heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that a shark probably won’t want you for lunch.