June 8, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere.

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Sighhh... This says it all about why we get down to the sea each morn. Image by @glistenrr, Bongin Bongin Bay.

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See below...

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Not a bad focal length, absolutely accidentally... Forster, end of morning swim.

Shark deterrents

Do they work?

The shark deterrent debate continues. We were fascinated when a cobber sent us recently a brochure he’d obtained from the NSW government comparing the effectiveness of different personal devices to deter shark ‘attack’. What the brochure said was that shark deterrent devices have very limited effectiveness, ranging between 56 per cent and 6 per cent. The only one of those devices suitable for ocean swimming (as we do it) was at the bottom of the range.

Imagine that: you’re relying on something to protect your life (and that’s not getting melodramatic), but it offers only 6 per cent effectiveness.

The figures are based on peer-reviewed studies, so they can be taken seriously. But, they are a few years old (2017/18). Yet there is nothing that we could find rigorous and peer-reviewed since then to refresh the knowledge. Models have changed since then and, according to some manufacturers, theirs have been improved. For now, we have to take them at their word, however, because, as we say, they don’t satisfy rigorous academic standards of research.

Cynic? Moi?

We are sceptics about these things. It’s not that we don’t believe they actually work as deterrents; we don’t doubt that, generally speaking, they must have some effect; it’s that the ranges over which they work –

  1. generally do not cover the entire human body, 
  2. sometimes may work to attract the shark in before eventually turning it away,
  3. that they still allow big noahs to come so close you might kark it from a heart attack anyway, 
  4. that most of them, even if they were effective, are impractical for use by ocean swimmers, and
  5. some are so weak as to be of negligible effect anyway, so we query their efficacy.

Our cobber’s brochure reported the key results of a study by academics at Flinders University, which looked at the effectiveness of five devices in deterring white sharks. Comparing the devices, the study found –

  • Shark Shields (Ocean Guardian Freedom+ Surf) reduced white shark ‘interactions’ by 56 per cent
  • Chillax Wax (for surfboards) reduced ‘interactions’ by 14 per cent
  • Rpela electrode-based system installed in the bottom of a surfboard reduced ‘interactions’ by 12 per cent
  • SharkBanz surf leash (leg ropes) reduced ‘interactions’ by 10 per cent, and
  • SharkBanz bracelets/anklets reduced ‘interactions’ by 6 per cent.

Hardly cause for confidence. Turning around these results –

  • With Shark Shields (Ocean Guardian Freedom+ Surf), there remained, with the model tested, a 44 per cent probability that they would not work
  • With Chillax Wax, there remained an 86 per cent probability that they would not work
  • With Rpela, there remained an 88 per cent probability that they would not work
  • With SharkBanz surf leash, there remained a 90 per cent probability that they would not work, and
  • With SharkBanz bracelets/anklets, there remained a 94 per cent probability that they would not work

The only problem with these findings is, as we say, that they are several years old. This study was funded in 2016/17 and reported in 2018. Technology may have moved on from then, but there is little out there that we have been able to find that is conclusive and peer-reviewed to inform us of any claimed improvement since then, certainly not in the area in which we are interested, ie technology and devices of use to ocean swimmers. There is another study looking at the Rpela device, but this device is of limited relevance to ocean swimmers.

Anklet in the room

Which brings us to the other great issue: only one of the devices available and tested appears practical for ocean swimmers. Of the others, they are intended mainly for surfboard riders, with some suitable for divers. 

  • The Shark Shield has a version which could be used by swimmers, but it appears suitable mainly for solo swimmers, not for groups (such as early morning swimmers), and for deeper water, not close in ‘behind the break’ swimming, due to the need to keep the aerial that creates the shark-repellent electrical field free of contact with other swimmers and the ocean bottom, and its limited range. (After our last monotribe on shark deterrent devices, a year or two back, the Shark Shield people, very generously, sent us a model to try, but we found it quite unsuitable for the kind of ocean swimming that we and our cohort get up to. Sadly, we found no opportunity to test it, apart from imagining it on our lower leg. There were, as well, no white sharks around volunteering to test it with.)
  • The Chillax wax is for a surfboard
  • The Rpela also is for a surfboard
  • The SharkBanz leash is for a surfboard rider

This leaves only the SharkBanz anklet/bracelet which, if effective, might be useful to a swimmer. This is because it is a very lightweight, unobtrusive silicone device which uses a magnetic technology not reliant on batteries. It can be worn on the ankle or the wrist.

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We tested our personal magnetism on Fluffy's grand-daughter at Forster today. It certainly seemed to attract, then repel, the closer she came.

But…

We have, as we say, written before about these things, after an incident in Wallis Lake by Forster in which a swimmer of our acquaintance (a lady, but that’s beside the point), wearing a SharkBanz anklet, was approached by a bull shark that turned away ‘at the last moment’, ie only centimetres away from the swimmer. In this case, the device appeared to attract the shark, before ultimately turning it away (SharkBanz says on its website that its product does not attract sharks). This highlighted the effective range of the device: it might protect your ankle, your foot, or your lower leg, or (if work on the wrist) your hand and arm, but what about the rest of your body? And how are you feeling about having a shark approaching that close to you even if you are confident that it will, at the last moment, be turned away?

And note the findings of the study referred to above: that they found that the version of the SharkBanz tested in 2016/17 worked only in 6 per cent of cases.

Trials of SharkBanz in 2017, conducted by ‘the Sharkbanz team in association with Discovery Canada and Sharkdefense Technologies, LLC’ showed this of the SharkBanz technology: 

‘A total of 25 trials were conducted with the treatments (i.e. Sharkbanz and Sharkleash) and control (no SharkBanz: oss.c) resulting in 2 hr 38 min of soak time exposed to … bull sharks with a total of 1,235 approaches and observed behaviours. 

‘During the 2 hr 19 min with the treatment, there were zero attacks on the human model. Trials with the control were stopped once the human model was attacked. During the 18 minutes of trials with the control (no SharkBanz), the human model was attacked approximately every 46 seconds’. 

This study did not distinguish between the effect of the SharkBanz leash and the SharkBanz anklet. Remember, the study done for the NSW Government found the leash (intended for surfboards) was 10 per cent effective, whereas the anklet (suitable for swimmers) was 6 per cent effective.

This was with an earlier version of SharkBanz. There’s now the SharkBanz 2. Is it better? We can't tell.

According to the SharkBanz website, SharkBanz offers a ‘field… about 1-2 meters (about 3-6 ft). The unpleasant sensation becomes intense for the shark at about 1 meter, becoming exponentially greater each inch closer’. But Sharkbanz says the wearer probably should wear two units to optimise protection –

‘Worn on your wrist or ankle, one Sharkbanz unit will help reduce the risk,’ the website says. ‘However, wearing two Sharkbanz (one on your ankle; another on your opposite wrist) will increase the overall deterrent field size and thus provide greater coverage.

‘If only wearing one, we suggest wearing Sharkbanz on your ankle, as the majority of shark bites occur on the ankle and leg areas.’

Remember, even with the SharkBanz 2, the effective range still is about a metre. 

The SharkBanz website says, ‘Much like other safety devices, such as a bike lights, Sharkbanz reduce the risk -- they do not eliminate the risk altogether. That said, customers in Australia and California have used our products to deter investigative Great Whites.’

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These Port Jackson sharks hid in a hole at Forster today. They certainly appeared to be repelled by our personal magnetism.

Technology

There appears to be considerable research showing the effectiveness of the technology on which the SharkBanz is based in deterring sharks, ie the creation of a magnetic field around the wearer or user of the device, which acts to repel particular shark species. What is less clear is the capacity of these devices to generate a magnetic field strong enough to provide effective protection to the wearer.

Bottom line

No-one will guarantee you of protection from shark attack by the use of various deterrent devices. What they do promise is that the risk is reduced, and some of them say the time between a shark taking an interest in you and actually ‘attacking’ is also extended, giving the user time to take evasive action, eg getting out of the water. As a result of all this, we don't say, Don't buy them. We do say: Caveat emptor. 

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Pacific's best SwimFest

Back to Mana Fiji in September 

mana fiji logo 19 250Bookings are flowing in for the return of the Mana Fiji SwimFest – three days of ocean swimming events in the pristine waters off Mana Island's North Beach, a location that we know as Ocean Swimming Stadium. The SwimFest will run from September 15-17, 2022, with our core travel dates September 13-18.

Mana Island is re-opening at the end of July after being closed for two years due to covid. They're keen to have us all back, and we're keen to be there. The water off Mana Island, off the north-west coast of Fiji's main island, is some of the best ocean swimming water in the world, not just the Pacific (and we've swum in a lot of places over the years). There will be two swim days, with a 10km swim on Thursday, September 15 (solos and relay teams), and events of 5km, 2.5km, 1km, and 500m on Saturday, September 17. Even if you don't feel up to the 10km as a solo, you can do it as a member of a 3 x 3.3km relay team. And if you don't have a team, we'll build one for you.

This year, Mana Island Resort will run the SwimFest events in co-operation with Fiji Swimming. This means the events will have FINA status.

It's a terrific event for anyone wanting to get away from the colder months and the chocolatey water that we're copping along the coast currently, following the rain and floods. It's also possible to use the Mana 10km event as a qualifying event for the Rottnest Channel Swim. This makes it the ideal event for Rotto qualification, in some of the best, friendliest, most interesting water you will ever get.

Our offer to you

Mana Island Resort is offering massive discounts on room rates to those who book through oceanswimsafaris.com: up to 50% off normal rates. We've packaged the core five days together to include your room, swim entries (both swim days), all meals, and return transfers between Nadi International Airport and Mana Island. See our page on oceanswimsafaris.com for more details (link below).

Bonus: Win back the value of your room!

All those who book and pay for their Mana Fiji SwimFest travel package with oceanswimsafaris.com by July 31 will go into a draw to win the value of their room back! 

We have packages online now. Bookings are coming in, so check out the details quick and smart... Click here 

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10km swimmers from the last Mana Fiji SwimFest in October, 2019. Even if you don't wish to tackle 10km, you can still take part as part of the 3x3.3 km relay team. (If you don't have a team, we'll find one for you. )

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Separated by the universe... The solar system, at least. Forster, early morn.

Get your View gogs

World's best gogs at world's best prices

V825AWe're continuing our 'never-before' offer of View gogs. The folks at View have adjusted their prices in a small way recently, so we have had to adjust ours correspondingly, but we've kept prices down at sale levels. This keeps them at the world's best value gog (in our experience, which goes on a bit). 

Here are some of our bargains…

  • View Selene Swipes – $36
  • View Wide-eyes Swipes – $36
  • View Wide-eyes Swipe Mirrored – $42.50
  • View Xtreme semi-masks – $37.50
  • Prescription goggles – new Swipe hi-anti-fog models $66.50

Here's the link to order your new gogs. Click now and we'll get them away to you quick and smart… Click here

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Not a bad joint for a swim.

2022 Heron Island

Dates open for Oct, Nov

We've begun our 2022 Heron Island oceanswimsafaris. They've been heavily booked, which is immensely gratifying. It's also hardly surprising given the quality of the water and the sea life on the Great Barrier Reef itself. It's very different from water around the islands inside the reef.

We're off again to Heron next week, in fact. We've already run Heron Island oceanswimsafaris in March and in April-May. Our June oceanswimsafari is sold out, and we are taking bookings for October 19-24, and November 6-11. There is still plenty of availability in most room standards on these dates.

Best get in quick and smart. It would be good to have you with us.

Find out more and book… Click here

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starry, starry night, Heron Island, late April.

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New model Swipes

Prescription gogs now in Swipes

vc510 swipe lens 370Big news from View: our very popular prescription goggles now also come with high-anti-fog Swipe technology.

Our Swipes, so far in both Selene and Wide-Eyes versions, have been a big hit, offering what View (the makers) describe as 10 times the anti-fog capacity of other gogs. We've been using them for almost two years now, and we know that it works. We've sold over 1,000 pairs of Swipe gogs since their release just prior to Xmas 2019, so many of you must agree, too.

Now the Platina prescription goggles come in Swipe versions, too. Lenses come in strengths ranging from -1.0 to -10.0, and +1.5 to +6.0, and you can have different strengths in each eye. Just select the strengths you want when you order your gogs online.

View's new Swipe prescription gogs are available at $66.50 a full pair, which is cheap compared with how you will pay at a spectacles shop.

Be aware: View is phasing out the old versions of prescription goggles, currently selling for $A57.85. Some lens strengths are no longer available, and strengths will not be replaced as they run out. Your alternative is to order the new Swipe Optical goggles, which offer 10 times the anti-fog capacity of the older versions.

You can order your new Swipe Optical (prescription) gogs online now… Click here

 


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Winter imminent, Bongin Bongin Bay. Image by @glistenrr

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Hellercamp Pty Ltd
t/a oceanswimsafaris.com
PO Box 1164
Meadowbank
NSW 2114
Australia

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