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Shinny and/or Light Colored Equipment and Sharks

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I have some follow-up concerns in the wake of the wonderful thread initiated by Cor's review of the Stix Buoyancy Arm System. In this thread, concerns were raised over the possible shark affinity to the white floats. Many of us were concerned enough to change the white color to black via coatings, shrink wrap, etc.

 

For years, we have heard and read of general concerns that certain shark species are attracted to light colors such as white or yellow. Also, it is commonly stated that Barracuda are attracted to "shinny objects". I have experienced a few incidents that may be pertinent (young sea lion tugging at my yellow mask strap, Silky sharks swooping down and pulling up just short of shinny 1st stage regulators, etc.) but I am interested in others experiences. So can anyone help me with the following?

 

(1) Are there concerns about other lightly colored and/or shinny photo equipment? Specifically, is the silver finish of Camera Housings and Strobes like SeaCam models a significant problem?? While these surfaces are more of a matt finish than a glossy finish they are fairly reflective...

 

(2) If there is a concern, has anyone simply attempted to darken the surface via a marker such as a Sharpie Pen? Any other fairly simple solutions that don't have considerable downside?

 

(3) Are there specific concerns relative to Oceanic Whitetips or Tiger Sharks (I believe that Cor's upcoming trip to shoot these species prompted the concerns about the white floats?)...

 

Thanks,

 

Scott

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Hi,

 

I would say that sharks are more curious when it comes to light colours, they love mares green fins, and bright yellow stuff - but not so much that they will come and eat you, they will make a few passes and probably get bored and swim away.

 

(1) Are there concerns about other lightly colored and/or shinny photo equipment? Specifically, is the silver finish of Camera Housings and Strobes like SeaCam models a significant problem?? While these surfaces are more of a matt finish than a glossy finish they are fairly reflective...

 

That would not concern me in the slightest. The glass in your mask is highly reflective...

 

(2) If there is a concern, has anyone simply attempted to darken the surface via a marker such as a Sharpie Pen? Any other fairly simple solutions that don't have considerable downside?

 

If you are considering 'colouring in' your housing because of its potential to increase your risk of shark attack, may i suggest fresh water lake diving? :D

 

The chance of seeing a shark on an average dive is remote, and of getting within 15 feet of one tiny. You should consider yourself very lucky to get within touching distance. Sure, sometimes they come in close to have a look, but that's what diving is all about, those special occasions when you get out of the water and talk about it for hours. Did you buy another reg after your silky incident?

 

(3) Are there specific concerns relative to Oceanic Whitetips or Tiger Sharks (I believe that Cor's upcoming trip to shoot these species prompted the concerns about the white floats?)...

If you are going on a specific shark trip then the operator should be able to advise on what they think is 'safe'. But i would only shrink wrap the arms from an aesthetic standpoint, not out of fear of shark attack.

 

Are you going on a trip looking for these sharks?

 

If this is a 'what if one comes swimming by' then you should play the lottery more often because you would be seriously lucky to see one on a normal dive.

 

I think that even within an informed group such as underwater photographers there is still a lot of scaremongering about sharks, and people get way too worried about the possible consequences of their attire. I would make a cover for the stix arms only because i think the white is ugly! Other than that i think there is far too much hype even within our circles, to the point when it could be classed as OCD!

 

Simon

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Scott, closer is better :D

 

Bring a wide lens.... :guiness:

 

Remember we were never satisfied with how close they would get to us in Cocos..

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Don't worry about your gear, the only time I had sharks really close (arms length) on my 2000+ dives was when there was bait in the water (regardless of gear color). If white floats (or anything else some other color) would attract sharks, people would start saving a lot of money in bait...

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Agree with all of the above. The only thing I'd add is that diving with shark experts like Jim Abernethy at Tiger Beach and other crowded shark locations in the Bahamas, he insists that you not dress like shark bait. No white, yellow or silver on the wetsuit or preferably fins too. Occasionally a camera may be taken off by an inquisitive shark (hence no lanyards) but you definitely don't want a playful or investigatory nibble on your arm or leg :guiness:

 

Jim went absolutely ballistic when I put on my RalphTech over-vest one chilly evening after a full day's diving and just prior to jumping in again for our first big tiger munching on the bait crate. Thing was my over-vest was covered with trendy silver 'contour' decals, which in retospect lit me up a bit like a luminous Halloween skeleton! Bit silly really - but it was a rush buy and all the dealer had in stock. :D Needless to say I covered up before that dive.

 

I'll be diving with the sardines off South Africa this June, and I'll leave that particular over-vest at home. Lucky my wife and I are the same size and her over-vest is a boring black all over. Just as well she doesn't want to do the bait-ball thing at all this year and her suit is available. :guiness:

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Sardine run? Who you going with, showoff?

 

You may want to wear the vest... your fellow divers may want that bit of extra drama....just have a letter for next of kin. :D

 

In my dives with sharks, mostly in natural predation mode (baitballs etc), when they sense food or have fed partially. I noticed they tend to hit shiny things with galvanic charge (props, tanks, esp. strobes etc). This is especially true in feeding frenzy mode.

I wear a red and blue wet suit in baitballs with at least 30-40 sharks feeding and they will bump me as much as the next guy in black. First thing they go for is the electro magnetic charge like strobes and xmitters. As sharks go in for a test bite, they use their ampulae for final approach as they close their eyes before they bite.

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you definitely don't want a playful or investigatory nibble on your arm or leg :D

 

Far from me to be alarmist, but dressing down and avoiding white/light covered items on a shark dive is the way to go, we had one model that got a ''are you lunch or not'' bite on her bare foot sticking out of her dress (small puncture wound nothing serious), another model had her white veil stolen from her head, and one of the dive master had a reef shark gumming her bare hand while she was supplying air to the model. needless to say everybody paid attention after that.

 

It also pay's tribute to the sharks sense and intelligence, if they where the brutes they are made out to be most of the time, we would have had a chomping frenzy. Dress like a carrot and even a rabbit will be interested :guiness:

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I'd rather wear flashy yellow and silver around sharks than dress like a big carrot around this monster German rabbit... :guiness::D

 

060411_rabbit_big.jpg

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"oh no he says... it's just a wee rabbit!"

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Far from me to be alarmist, but dressing down and avoiding white/light covered items on a shark dive is the way to go

 

Yes, I agree with that, shark dives (those where there is bait in the water to attract them) are a completely different matter and should be approached with care. Not only you need to limit your shiny objects, but also keep your hoses close to your body, etc.

 

However, the original post never mentioned shark dives, the question appears to be related to the regular day to day dive, and I don't think you should worry about sharks on those.

 

Luiz

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Thanks for the good information guys...just want to clarify a few points and that may better explain the intent of the thread...

 

I have swum and photographed over 30 species of sharks. Most of these experiences have been "chance" encounters although some have been "baiting" and/or "chumming" situations. They include very close encounters with Scalloped Hammerhead (rebreathers), Great Whites (cages), Mako (scary spear fishing incident), etc. So, at the end of the day I am asking about "chance encounters" and "baiting" situations.

 

Again, questions were conceived after reading so much about covering the white colored STIX arms (converting color from white to black) and after reading the following on Jim Abernethy's website: Please do not bring any white or yellow dive gear, especially fins, mask, gloves, or wetsuits with a large amount of white or yellow.

If the white arms are of concern then why not the shinny strobes and the shinny stainless attachments/inserts within the housing?

 

I will be joining Jim and many others this summer and I respect their experiences and opinions but I just wanted to expand the conversation from dive gear and strobe arms to other equipment that may/may not increase risk...

 

Lastly, I have never been in the water with many of these species (Great Hammerhead, Tiger's, Oceanic Whitetip, etc.) and I am excited to get as close as these animals will allow but I do want to minimize unnecessary risks...want to stick around to see my 3 and 4 year olds grow up...Thanks again for your thoughtful replies!

 

Scott

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I have worked on Jim's boats for several years, and all of the rules are there for a reason - to keep the divers safe. I wouldn't worry about the color of your housing for normal diving ("chance encounters") and I wouldn't go so far as to repaint a housing for a trip with baiting - I have a white housing, and Jim's housing is silver. That being said, it's a good idea to limit the amount of silver/yellow/white that you wear and have on you - it will garner less attention. Trust me - it's not a problem to get as close as you want to the sharks when you're diving with Jim, but you want control over the amount of attention you receive. White strobe arms are going to earn attention that you may not want, so covering them is probably a good idea.

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I haven't done any diving with baited sharks, etc - but I would like to add that it is very possible to become a "statistic" with even normal dive gear on, much less a camera with white/bright parts. I would take every precaution I could and be very alert (but of course still relaxed).

 

I was once rammed by a large great barracuda (no baiting being done, just night/coral spawning diving) - it hit a shiny D-ring on my BC waist webbing and it was like a javelin hitting me at close range - it obviously mistook the D-ring for some prey (someone else's very bright video lights reflecting off my D-ring were most likely the culprit). The cuda cracked a rib and it was painful for a few months but nothing else awful happened...., except I don't like barracuda and I'd never take a pic of one!! Of course we have tons of cuda where I dive but I don't chose to hang around them if I can help it and I'd most certainly leave the area if one was around during baiting - but then I'm not a huge fan of baiting creatures anyway, but I'm not totally against it either depending on the specific circumstances. Otherwise I'm pretty fearless diving and I don't think sharks are as likely to mistake D-rings but I would not want to trust white floats, etc.

 

Of course it is rare for you/something on you to be mistaken for anything, but if it happens it is quite a dramatic surprise to say the least! Gives your diving a different perspective on being in "their" world - afterwards.

 

Carol

Edited by seagrant

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I think one has to look at a bunch of factors, not simply white/yellow vs dark.

 

For starters, whether or not a shark will approach very closely depends on a bunch of factors (assuming we are not talking about baiting here). Group size, relative size of the shark and shark type.

 

We've had a 1m oceanic whitetip repeatedly circle a group of 3-4 divers. The big bullshark on our reefs buzzes everyone, regardless of group size. The smaller reefies tend to be more approachable with small groups than large groups.

 

On a diver, who is in a horizontal position, white patches are more likely to be confused with prey than on a strobe arm. If the shark were coming that close anyway, I'd be more worried about the electrical impulses from my strobe attracting its curiosity than the white arms.

 

For the most part, I've found sharks to be very civilized. Even Bob, the big 3m aggressive bullshark, always makes a few broad passes with his fins down, enabling us to leave the area without any more provocation. Batfish, on the other.... them be downright mean!

 

Vandit

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