Shark expert Craig Anderson says “there is no way Michael Phelps will beat a great white in a swimming race.”
And Anderson would know. He and his business partner Hamish Jolly are the co-founders of Australian-based Shark Mitigation Systems (ASX:SM8), a company that produces non-invasive solutions to sharkattacks and ocean cleaning technology.
When Michael Phelps races a great white shark on Sunday at 8PM Eastern Time on Discovery Channel, Anderson (and just about everyone else) gives the greatest human swimmer in history no shot at a win.
“No way,” Anderson said. “Phelps would have to be making world record time to keep with a shark if it was in cruise mode. If the shark is in attack mode, Phelps would need to swim at more than 50 km/hr! That’s roughly four times faster than world record pace.”
Anderson isn’t the only one who thinks so. Ryan Lochte, who is promoting the Nat Geo Wild’s own shark-themed television marathon, says that he doesn’t think Phelps has a chance either.
So then the question becomes, what advantages does Phelps get when racing the shark to settle the score. This isn’t the first time that humans have challenged animals on television, most notably on the Man vs. Beast television special that aired on Fox in 2003. There, Shawn Crawford was able to out-run a giraffe, but lost to a zebra, in a 100 meter dash. The benefit there was that giraffes take much longer to reach top speed (37mph) and are much less motivated to do so when their life isn’t in danger. A world-class 100 meter runner averages about 23mph over the course of a 100m dash.
While human vs. human, a similar theme came about on the television show Shaq Vs., basketball player Shaquille O’Neal raced Phelps in a series of handicapped races. In the first, won by Shaq, he had to finish a 25 with a 5 second head start before Phelps finished a 50. In the 2nd, which Shaq lost, he swam a 200 medley relay with Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, and Ariana Kukors against a Phelps 200 IM – which Phelps won. In the 3rd race, a Phelps 75 came in faster than a Shaq 50.
We know that Phelps will be wearing a wetsuit and a monofin when he races the shark, which should give him a significant boost of speed as compared to traditional competitive attire. But there would have to be some other advantage to make this race to make it even moderately competitive. While a typical shark cruises at around 5pmh (which is right around world record pace for 100m in a pool), great white sharks can reach considerably higher speeds, which is thought to be because their bodies are slightly warmer than most of their shark cousins.
One wrinkle could be the inclusion of a turn. A shark has a much wider turning radius than does a human, so that could delay a great white over, say, a 50m swim.
In any case, it should be an intriguing watch, even if the
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Another Shark Week show is about attacks repeatedly occurring at a particular beach along the coast of California. Anderson believes we have very little knowledge of shark behaviour at any given beach and must proceed carefully.
“Until this knowledge is gathered we need to take precautions to ensure our safe co-existence,” he said. “This would include beach scale early warning detection of shark movements by equipment such as the Clever Buoy and the implementation of personal applications that can interfere with the sensory systems of sharks, such as the deterrent visual patterns on the SAMS wetsuits and board stickers/inlays.”
Regarding the practice of shark culling, Anderson also suggests we tread lightly.
“The issue is we lack the scientific and population data about sharks to be making binary decisions about how we manage their populations. This decision needs to be fully informed,” he said.
In the future, Anderson says Shark Mitigation Systems will focus on ensuring the success of its technologies and keep an eye out for other technological opportunities in the sector.
Portions of this report were taken from a press release, courtesy Shark Mitigation Systems.