Are you one of the people out there who just love the Big Blue but are scared crapless at the thought of being attacked by man-eating hungry sharks? Maybe, possibly, could be you? This has not prevented tens of thousands of tourists from oiling up, surfing, swimming and venturing out in lightweight Hobie Cats or alone in the luxurious warm blue ocean waters, though. Everything that’s good has its risks, right?
A case in point. Since there were 14 attacks in 2013 in Hawaii, 11 in 2012 and three the year before, it’s hard to tell if this problem is temporary or not. In August 2013, a German tourist died after a shark bit off her arm. In December, a man fishing on his kayak died after a shark bit his foot while he was out on a rowing boat dangling his foot in the water. Before them, there hadn’t been a human killed by a shark in Hawaii since 2004.
The proximity of sharks has, however, spurred sales of a number of devices that look a bit similar to an oversized wristwatch and claim to repel sharks by broadcasting an irritating electric pulse. Users attach the devices to their ankles, wrists, wetsuits and even surfboards. Priced from approximately US$29.99 to US$649, they sell out just as fast as they get placed on the shelves.
Atypical is the Electronic Shark Defense System (ESDS) a new surf gadget that repels shark attacks. The technology is lightweight, rechargeable and automatically turns on and off when submerged. The ESDS sends pulses through the water that are easily detected by a shark’s sensory system, causing them to stay out of the signal range. It is great for surfers, divers, and swimmers. The device attaches itself to its user by a strap, similar to surfboard or stand-up paddleboard leash to the ankle. Once the ESDS senses water, it turns on automatically, lasting approximately eight hours before needing to be recharged. Measuring 2.6×2.3×1.0 inches and weighing seven ounces, it’s very convenient to use. You can get this anti-shark device for $299.95 without a leash and $335.95 with a leash.
More expensive, but packing a more shocking punch is the Sharkshield Freedom 7. This electronic shark deterrent has two electrodes, which emit an electrical field that surround the user once its electrodes are submerged underwater simultaneously. The device emits a three-dimensional electronic pulse that interferes with a shark’s sensory organ – the Ampullae of Lorenzini – a highly sensitive area located on the snout of all predatory sharks. The Ampullae of Lorenzini consists of a network of fluid-filled sacs that serve as electrical receptors used to detect low-frequency electrical fields emitted by their prey within short distances. When the shark comes within a few meters from the Shark Shield, the strong electronic pulses emitted by the device cause the shark to experience muscle spasms and a high level of discomfort, making it turn and run. This devices attaches to your ankles and costs approximately $689.
Ostensibly the same thing, but cheaper at $29.99 and packing less punch is The Shark Shocker Repellant Band. This device comes as a much thinner wrist or ankle band. The magnets inside the band cause an interaction between the salt water and charged metals producing a weak electrical field. When a shark comes close to the field, it gets distracted
“You got 24 come in a box,” a Sports Authority Scuba department manager, Milo O’Quinn said. “I unpacked them and they were gone in less than an hour. Folks don’t even read the box or peruse the instructions.”
When I asked him if he thought they worked, the Iraq war vet shrugged. “Jury’s out, ain’t it? You got experts say they work. You got other experts say they don’t. I wouldn’t try waving it at a big ol’ hammerhead, though. Better off giving it a left hook.”