Marine

SAMS wetsuits make surfers look less tasty

SAMS wetsuits make surfers loo...
The Warning Pattern suit is based on fish patterns that warn off attackers
The Warning Pattern suit is based on fish patterns that warn off attackers
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The Warning Pattern suit is based on fish patterns that warn off attackers
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The Warning Pattern suit is based on fish patterns that warn off attackers
Details of the Warning Pattern suit
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Details of the Warning Pattern suit
The Cryptic Pattern suit is designed to hide divers
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The Cryptic Pattern suit is designed to hide divers
Surface conditions are different from underwater, so a different approach is needed
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Surface conditions are different from underwater, so a different approach is needed
Different patterns used in sea tests
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Different patterns used in sea tests
Examples of the Cryptic Pattern
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Examples of the Cryptic Pattern
About 100 shark attacks occur worldwide
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About 100 shark attacks occur worldwide
Buoys were used in sea trials
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Buoys were used in sea trials
An example of an unsuccessful pattern
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An example of an unsuccessful pattern
SAMS preliminary design sketch
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SAMS preliminary design sketch
SAMS technology is also available for surf boards and other accessories
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SAMS technology is also available for surf boards and other accessories
The Warning and Cryptic Patterns
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The Warning and Cryptic Patterns
The SAMS wetsuits use camouflage and warnings to deter shark attacks
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The SAMS wetsuits use camouflage and warnings to deter shark attacks
The test buoys were filled with bait
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The test buoys were filled with bait
Warning Pattern preliminary sketch
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Warning Pattern preliminary sketch
The wetsuits being introduced at a press conference
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The wetsuits being introduced at a press conference
Sea trials for testing various patterns
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Sea trials for testing various patterns
The formula used for calculating the effectiveness of patterns for the SAMS wetsuits
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The formula used for calculating the effectiveness of patterns for the SAMS wetsuits
View gallery - 18 images

Worldwide, around 100 people are attacked by sharks each year. The anxiety this produces isn't helped by the fact that traditional black wetsuits make divers and surfers look like seals, and it’s not a good idea to dress up as a shark’s favorite snack before going into the water. Australian company Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS) is developing wetsuits designed to deter shark attacks rather than ring the dinner gong by using disruptive patterns that sharks have trouble seeing, or that make them think twice about attacking.

Over the years, there have been a number of attempts at an anti-shark suit. In the 1970s, a chainmail suit was developed to protect against bites from smallish sharks and there have been proposals for electric suits and that can shock an attacker and systems like Shark Shield have been developed which interfere with a shark’s electric senses. SAMS takes a different approach by employing camouflage and deterrence based on shark behavior and anatomy.

Sharks have incredible senses. They have a sense of smell that puts laboratory equipment to shame, being able to detect a drop of blood 3 miles away. They can also detect faint electric currents with enough accuracy to not only identify prey, but to distinguish wounded prey. However, sharks depend on vision for going in for the kill. If this can be countered or confused, the attack may be avoided or delayed long enough for a diver to reach safety.

The SAMS wetsuits use camouflage and warnings to deter shark attacks
The SAMS wetsuits use camouflage and warnings to deter shark attacks

SAMS is based on research by Professor Shaun Collin and Professor Nathan Hart by the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia. They looked at how sharks see underwater by dealing not only with their behavior, but also the anatomy of the shark’s eye and with the molecular biology of the retina in several large shark species. This way, they were able to determine the eye’s optical characteristics and which colors and shapes caught the shark’s eye and which ones it was less likely to notice.

These findings were then applied to three scenarios: Swimming on the surface, diving to 5 m (15 ft), and diving to 15 m (50 ft). These were conducted in Mediterranean or subtropical water in different lighting conditions. Eventually, this was boiled down to a formula that takes into account color, contrast, pattern size, pattern shape, water depth and distance from the shark.

The Warning and Cryptic Patterns
The Warning and Cryptic Patterns

Sharks see in black and white, but as any cinematographer can tell you, color alters how light is reflected. That’s why when Superman made his debut in black and white films his costume used brown instead of red. The contrast in monochrome was better. Something similar applies to dodging sharks. Different colors and shapes work differently at various depths and distances. In other words, what works best for a surfer paddling through the waves isn't the same as what a diver needs at 100 ft (30 m) down.

From this, different patterns and colors with various contrasts could be worked out that sharks either had trouble seeing or were wary off as potentially dangerous or, at least, not very tasty. These were tested at sea with real sharks – fortunately, with Chum-filled buoys standing in for divers.

Buoys were used in sea trials
Buoys were used in sea trials

This boiled down to two basic patterns. The first was the Cryptic Pattern, which is designed for divers and swimmers. According to the developers, sharks have trouble seeing this pattern because of its disruptive coloration blends into the background. The second is the Warning Pattern for surfers, which is intended to make the wearer look less like something delicious and more like something nasty by imitating the warning patterns of some fish that send out the message “stay away.” The developers say that it won’t necessarily stop a shark from attacking, but it has a strong probability of getting one to hesitate, giving the wearer a chance to escape.

Wetsuits aren't the only target of the SAMS technology. Since things like surfboards, kayaks and scuba tanks also get attacked regularly, the patterns are available as skins or stickers to protect them as well.

The video below shows some of the testing conducted on the patterns.

Source: Shark Attack Mitigation Systems

DRAMATIC FOOTAGE: Scientifically developed shark deterrent wetsuit tested on wild sharks

View gallery - 18 images
6 comments
zevulon
there is a far bigger danger than sharks if you wear the ocean cammo suit---the danger is you black out for WHATEVER reason amongst thousands that occur while in the water and no one can see you easily to rescue you.
i think wearing the cammo suit is probably more dangerous due to the risk of non-rescue , than wearing the suit to prevent from the negligeable risk of shark attack, assuming the suit even works should you encounter a shark.
on one hand, you're going to look like a total idiot if you wear the snake stripes suit. and half the reason guys surf is to get the chicks. so you cannot go around looking like a poisonous snake.
Snake Oil Baron
I like how the black and white one leaves a seal shaped black patch on the torso. I would have thought that would defeat the purpose.
Veronica Grey
great but INACCURATE story. the world's first shark repellent wetsuit was invented by an American and it debuted on ABC news 5 months ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLM2WtjO8FA
Tyler Jones
I'm sorry, but I lived in Hawaii for almost a year, and I can guarantee the surfers there wouldn't be caught dead in a suite like that.
Ed
more people are killed by coconuts falling on their head than are killed by sharks.
Nate Loder
>>> "I'm sorry, but I lived in Hawaii for almost a year, and I can guarantee the surfers there wouldn't be caught dead in a suite like that." Tyler Jones 22nd July, 2013 @ 10:06 am PDT
Reply:
Isn't that the point? To NOT be caught dead? Of course they wouldn't be caught dead in a suit like that because no shark would attack them! LOL... Sorry, I had to...