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August 1999 Vol. 14, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Answer to Inflatable Sharks

from the August, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the June, 1999, issue, we wrote about Florida inventor John Underwood, who’d recently designed and patented a “shark protection device” consisting of a hypodermic plunger attached to 3000 psi of compressed air that divers could discharge into an attacking shark “causing a sudden and violent embolism.” Underwood hoped our readers could provide a few good names for the device and some feedback for its inventor, and, sure enough, you did.

As I anticipated, astute readers wrote to let Underwood know that his device was not a new idea. According to Tom Lopatin (Lake Hopatcong NJ) , “the now defunct Oceanic/ Farallon Co. produced a ‘Shark Dart’ utilizing a 38 gram CO2 Cartridge,” which they also patented (#2.981.026). Privately he asked, “is this guy for real?” while publicly stating that “it dismays and disgusts me that in this age of shark preservation there are still Underwoods in the world who think there is a need for such a device.” Rich Greenberg (Marietta GA) also mentioned the Shark Dart, noting it “worked only if you had remembered to remove the safety clip, and you hit hard enough to puncture the cartridge, and the shark hadn’t already bitten your arm off.... I carried it on dives for a while, never used it.” Clark Anderson (Kamuela HI) summed up most writers’ conclusions about the reincarnated Shark Dart: “hopefully this product will die before too many sharks do.”

As I also expected, readers had a few choice names and ideas as to what to do with the device. Law professor W. Patrick Resen suggested naming Underwood’s device “Shark Narc,” while Leah E. Shermis (Cerritos CA) preferred “Try it on Yourself First,” adding “please tell me that this article is a joke? Mr. Underwood might better spend his time and money on inventions less detrimental to the underwater environment, especially as the several marine species for which his invention is intended are already reaching ‘endangered species’ status due to human overfishing, by-catch wasting and poaching for fins as well as the human-created effects from pollution and global warming.”

Thanks to all who wrote. I hate to break the bad news, but I guess I’ll have to tell Underwood he won’t find many buyers among Undercurrent’s readership. I just hope he doesn’t shoot the messenger.

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