Patrick Rice of Shark Defense has come up with a new sunblock with a twist: it's also a shark repellent!
For the past six years, Shark Defense has been developing and patenting various shark repellents. Some are secret-agent cool, dispensed from hand-held rocket launchers. Others send sharks packing thanks to powerful magnets composed of rare-earth metals. Still others are injected into squid-shaped baits that could someday be deployed on fishers' long lines, to warn sharks away.
It's the cutting edge of a rather troubled quest to engineer the perfect shark repellent. The effort began in earnest in World War II, when FDR demanded that the military protect Navy boys from being gobbled up at sea. Knowing only that sharks seemed to steadfastly avoid their dead brethren, government teams were gathered, sharks were dropped in vats of water, Julia Child helped stir them, and compounds were produced that seemed, in controlled environments, to work like a charm. In the open seas, unfortunately, it worked more like chum, turning sailors into deliciously seasoned, artificially colored snacks.
"They were doing it wrong," Rice says. "They had a lot of the right ideas, but they didn't take them far enough."
Subsequent efforts aimed at frazzling sharks' delicate electro-sensory systems. Shark Defense has persevered on that course, Rice says, by pinpointing several inexpensive metals that emit a slight voltage in seawater. When squirted with such a compound, sharks spit out whatever they're eating. When a pretreated bait such as pigs' ears is offered, the sharks stay away.