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January 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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More Shark-Stopping Devices on the Market

do they work? And why do I think about goat implants?

from the January, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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In the dive industry, people are always coming up with new devices to keep sharks from biting or attacking. At least once a year, we see a news clip or a press release of a gadget that claims to stop sharks in their tracks when a diver waves it -- or fins it -- in front of their faces. But to date, none has been proven consistently effective. Even the well-received electronic Shark Shield, used by some commercial divers and a few surfers, has failed some tests.

Do sport divers need such devices? Maybe if you're in the middle of a feeding frenzy at Tiger Beach. One diver was killed there a few years back, though it was more of a misplaced bite on his thigh than an attack.

But the people who really needed devices to prevent shark attacks were U.S. sailors during WWII. I've read endless gory tales of sharks devouring men after their ships were destroyed, even though shark repellent packs had been attached to their Mae West vests. The poor floating sailor was to squeeze the packet, releasing a noxious liquid that would dispel sharks. While the War Department dreamed it up, the chef was none other than Julia Child, whose first recipe was not for crme brulee or crpes, but for repelling sharks. As the November issue of Mental Floss magazine reports, "Child, a worker at the Office of Strategic Services, was tasked with making a concoction to keep the big fish away. Her mix of black dye, copper acetate and water-soluble wax was used by the War Department for three decades, issued to sailors for self defense." Unfortunately, it didn't work well, if at all, but the Navy continued to use it because it gave sailors some peace of mind if they found themselves adrift....


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