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May 2003 Vol. 18, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Electronic Shark Repellent Vindicated

from the May, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last year we reported on the death of Australian diver Paul Buckland, who was attacked by an 18- foot great white shark. He was a commercial abalone diver, working in the waters off Port Lincoln, Australia, where great whites hunt fur seals. At the time, he was wearing a protective device designed to repel sharks, the South African-made Shark Pod, which emits an electrical current to interfere with receptors in the shark's snout. Obviously, it didn't repel the shark, and his death put a cloud over an Australian firm that had redesigned the South African model and was introducing it to the market.

Now, Nick Squires of the Sydney Herald reports that a government agency conducting an inquest into Buckland's death has been told that Buckland apparently had rigged the Shark Pod incorrectly, and the device can't be implicated in his death. The pod has two electrodes, one to be worn on the foot and the other on the middle of the back. However, it was common practice for local divers to attach one electrode to their air hose to increase the scope of the electric shield and to switch it off when on the bottom because they often received shocks from the equipment. But such a rigging could give the great white a window of opportunity.

Ten minutes into the dive, Buckland surfaced and called out to Shannon Jentzen, who was captaining their boat. Jentzen saw an enormous shark surface and steered the fishing boat toward the great white, but it took no notice. Instead the great white launched itself at Buckland. By the time Jentzen managed to haul Buckland on board, he had lost his left leg and much of his torso.

The inquiry was told the electric pulses emitted from the Shark Pod are effective to a range of six to 30 feet, depending on how large, determined, and hungry the shark was. However, Senior Sergeant Robert McDonald, of the South Australian water police, said no equipment yet devised could ward off a really big shark. "Even if used properly, I think it will get to a stage where the shark gets so excited that [the device] is not going to stop it."

Dr. John West, a biologist at Sydney's Taronga Zoo who records shark attacks in Australia, said: "The problem is great whites come at you like a steam train. By the time they have come within range of the electrical pulse, it's probably too late." Coroner Wayne Chivell heard how the great white may have watched Jentzen dive right before Buckland, so that by the time Buckland entered the water, the fish was primed and ready to kill.

For more information about the Shark Pod, go to www.sharkshield.com.au or contact Sea Change Technology in Lockleys, South Australia, at 61/88351-9411.

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