Here’s a way to gin up some interest in your wetsuit technology: tell people they might die if they don’t buy your product.
Australian company Shark Attack Mitigation Systems claims their new technology can make wetsuits shark-repellent—or, at the very least, make shark attacks less likely.
From their website:
SAMS Technology translates scientific data into a specific contrast of colours, in various sizes and shapes, which combine to create different effects at various depths and distances underwater. The patterns also take into account the reflective spectrum of light and colours in the water and how sharks perceive objects in the water.
While sharks have a number of receptors used to detect odors and weak electrical fields in the water, it is apparent from research that vision is the crucial sense in the final phase of a shark attack. By disrupting the sharks visual perception, an attack can either be diverted altogether, or at least delayed allowing time for evasive action.
There are two types of pattern that are designed to work in different ways. The first looks like, and functions as, underwater camouflage, making the wearer blend in with the surrounding water.
If such a design were, in fact, to work as advertised, it would be consistent with advice given by George H. Burgess, keeper of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida. According to Burgess, sharks see contrast especially well.
“Divers and swimmers probably can reduce the chance of an interaction with a shark by avoiding bright swimwear or dive gear,” he writes on the ISAF website. “I personally prefer to use dark blue or black fins, mask, tank, and wetsuit while diving.”
The second design does the opposite. Black and white stripes make the wearer more visible to sharks, but in a way that “present[s] the wearer as unlike any shark prey, or even as an unpalatable or dangerous food option,” says the SAMS website.
The designs, which can also be applied to surfboards and other water gear, were developed in collaboration with the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia. In one test, related on the SAMS website, tiger sharks veered away from bait wrapped in the camouflage “cryptic” design, but attacked bait wrapped in regular black neoprene.
Whether or not these designs work in real-world scenarios remains to be seen. Just in case, the company includes the following disclaimer: “It is impossible for SAMS to guarantee that 100% of sharks will be deterred under all circumstances with the SAMS technology.”
As for us, we’ll believe it when we see Mark Healey wearing it.