A company in Australia has developed a range of wetsuits which they say renders the wearer nearly invisible or repulsive to sharks. It is hoped the suits will help prevent attacks on divers, surfers and even swimmers who wear them in coastal areas that are shark infested. They incorporate patented Shark Attack Mitigation System technology (SAMS) which is tuned to disrupt the senses of the killer fish. SAMS was created with the help of experts in the neurology and behaviour of sharks who tested the suits on live animals to make sure they work. One of the creators Hamish Jolly said:
“Whilst the end product may appear at first glance to be fairly simple, the science and research behind it is extensive.
“We’ve combined many variables and elements in response to shark sensory systems so that the design of the water apparel has application for all water sports, including diving and surfing.”
He said field testing by Australia’s Oceans Institute and the company itself had been very positive and was recently recorded by a documentary team from National Geographic. Footage shows a stunning example encounter with a large tiger shark. Mr Jolly said: “The initial results of our testing has been quite extraordinary and has given us the confidence to release this range of suits.
“However, we envisage that testing will be an ongoing process over many years to come as well.
“We cannot say that our suits are a fail-safe protection against shark attack but we believe they certainly can assist without necessitating any additional equipment or cost other than what is already being used.”
The suits follow two designs, one of which uses highly contrasting stripes to repel the shark by making it think the wearer is inedible. The other, which uses a range of blues and greys, makes the wearer nearly invisible by mimicking the natural patterns in seawater, making it difficult for the shark to focus on a target. The designs were created following decades of research by shark experts who came to recognise that sharks tend to ignore potential prey that are decorated with highly contrasting colours.
Among the research was anecdotal evidence that indigenous South Sea islanders painted their bodies with stripes to avoid being attacked. Bob Lushey, from the company which is making the wetsuits, Radiator, said: “Over more than 20 years in the wetsuit industry, the common question I have heard over and over again is ‘I don’t want to look like a seal. What colours don’t sharks like?’
“Well now we know the answer to that question and it’s very exciting.”
Around 100 shark attacks are reported worldwide every year, with Australia one of the most dangerous places.
Here’s a video of one design: