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  Apollo and shark repellent ("Shark Chaser")

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Author Topic:   Apollo and shark repellent ("Shark Chaser")
H E Pennypacker

Posts: 53
From: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Registered: Dec 2004

posted 07-12-2005 07:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for H E Pennypacker   Click Here to Email H E Pennypacker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm reading a book at the moment, Shark Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance by Thomas B. Allen, and came across an interesting paragraph in a section dealing with early experimentation with chemical based deterrents, including one that was named "Shark Chaser."
Shark Chaser found it's way into the survival kits that early astronauts carried into space and that U-2 pilots carried on their perilous flights over the Soviet Union. NASA put Shark Chaser into the marker dye released from Apollo space capsules when they hit the sea. After at least one landing, the splashdown attracted sharks. "Nothing happened," a NASA spokesman said, "except maybe the frogmen who helped in the recovery worked faster than usual. The sharks only circled and watched."
So, is this true? Or just an urban myth? If it's true, which Apollo splashdown attracted sharks?

Sounds like a good reason to carry hand guns in case of encounters with "hostile natives"?


Posts: 3413
From: Netherlands
Registered: Nov 2001

posted 07-13-2005 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember reading newspapers articles here in The Netherlands at the time of the Apollo 15 splashdown about the shark repellent, so it might have been that flight.


Posts: 48
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 07-13-2005 09:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for lb206   Click Here to Email lb206     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've also heard of the shark repellent on early flights though I don't know of any specific missions encountering them. I know the Liberty Bell 7 traveling exhibit points out the bag that contained shark repellent under the heat shield and landing bag that deployed the repellent into the water on splashdown.

KC Stoever

Posts: 1012
From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 07-13-2005 09:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In his capacity as NASA-US Navy liaison officer, Mercury astronaut (and Sealab aquanaut) Scott Carpenter took all NASA-devised shark repellent devices (ca. Mercury and Gemini) to the Navy's shark experts for testing.

Their verdict?

The devices were "mildly repellent" to sharks in both the on and off positions.

Shark repellents may have been included in some Mercury through Apollo emergency kits (I don't know). If so, they were likely included as confidence boosters only. They had zero utility — so why waste the precious space and weight?

KC Stoever

Posts: 1012
From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 07-14-2005 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One device was a spooky-looking contraption, with wires and electricity-emitting thingies. That's one device NASA shark experts wanted the US Navy to look at.

But if I recall correctly from what Carpenter has told me, NASA was really worried about sharks, in the same way all of us are, sort of irrationally. Imagine all the effort going into launch, spaceflight, reentry, splashdown, egress, recovery — only to lose an astronaut to a man-eating shark!

I'm sure the paramedics/frogmen were equipped with the usual survival knives.


Posts: 3165
From: San Diego
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 07-14-2005 02:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Attitudes towards sharks and their potential dangers have changed a lot in the decades since Apollo. Life scientists have since learned that sharks are really not interested much in eating people — we're too bony and muscly for their tastes — and usually only strike if they mistake us for something else. Even then it's a nasty but non-fatal "exploratory bite" to see what we are, before spitting us out.

Humans have driven many shark populations to near extinction, mostly out of misplaced fear. In contrast, about 5 to 10 people out of all the billions in the world die from shark attacks each year. That's less than the numbers killed by either bees or pigs (remaking "Jaws" with a ferocious man-eating pig terrorizing a sleepy coastal town wouldn't have quite the same box office attraction though, I fear...)

...anyway, I'll come down off my science soapbox now.

All times are CT (US)

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