Special: Jaws Special
- Punching a shark in the nose or jabbing it in the gills will drive it away: plausible (seemed to respond to the gills)
- Shark strength feats
- Ram and pierce boat: confirmed (a 3000 lb great white travelling at 25mph could pierce a boat)
- Ram and break a shark cage: confirmed
- Pull down floating barrels: mythbusted
- Tow a boat: mythbusted
- A bullet can cause a scuba tank explosion: mythbusted
- Piano wire can be used as shark fishing wire: mythbusted
This episode was two hours long and involved lots and lots of shark myths, mostly from the movie Jaws.
Related Links: * Shark mini-myth video on Discovery.com * 'Why Shark Week' video on Discovery.com * 'When Pelicans Attack' video on Discovery.com * The 'Shark Lab' at Bimini Biological Field Station describes their involvement in this show * Farallon Islands * Bubble Subs * Photos/Posters of sharks breaching
As the Discovery Channel did not want to be guilty of creating shark hysteria with this episode, there were ads highlighting the fact that sharks are not serious danger to humans. During the show they provided the following statistic:
- average # of people killed by sharks per year: 15
- average # of people killed by falling coconuts per year: 150
Myth: Punching a shark in the nose or jabbing it in the gills will drive it away.
In 1963, Rodney Fox attacked by great white shark. He believes he was saved by fighting back.
Human punching test
The plan was to create a Rock 'em Sock 'em Buster, but first they had to take some measurements on human punches. They dressed Jamie up in the "Red Man" cushion suit and had Adam punch him. Using the slow-motion camera they measured the speed of his punch at 20 mph. They then used one of Buster's thighs as a punching bag. Jamie punched it and they measured the deflection at 3 ft.
Using these results they built the Rock 'em Sock 'em punching version of Buster. Kari built made one punching fist and one jabbing fist (fingers extended) and Jamie made the pneumatic punching arms. After getting rid of some valve issues they were able to test Buster with the thigh punching bag and verified that it was similar to human punching force. Adam also dressed up in the red man suit to take some punches for fun.
Kari: "What do you think he'd wear, shorts or a little thong?"
Rock 'em Sock 'em Buster test
They flew to the Bahamas and put Jamie (dressed in chain mail) in a shark cage, holding Buster on the outside of the cage. Buster was stuffed with fish morsels while Adam on the surface operated the valves to get Buster to punch. The water was full of Caribbean reef sharks, which according to the diving expert are responsible for most of the attacks in the Bahamas region
There were quite a few sharks in the waer and Buster punched them up pretty well, even if his aim was pretty bad. The punching did deter the sharks, but it did not drive them away. Buster suffered quite a few bites and was even wrestled away from Jamie.
Rock 'em Sock 'em Jamie test
It's Kari's suggestion that they test with a real human punching as they could not aim Buster very well. They wanted to test two things: * Does punching specifically in the nose and gills work? * Do the sharks get angry from the punching?
Later on Kari starts to get worried about Jamie as the sharks in the water seem more aggressive than the previous sharks.
Kari: "If I was in charge, I wouldn't put him down there"
Kari (to Jamie): "If I see a shark coming up with a beret, I'm gonna be mad at you"
Adam can't wear scuba gear because of problems with his ears but he's able to go down in a bubble sub, which actually looks like quite a lot of fun (I want one).
A chum box was placed in front of Jamie who delivered some light punches to the sharks passing by. The sharks didn't become more aggressive, but they did seem to turn away when they were tapped.
Jamie: "their noses are quite hard" (like bone)
Jamie's observations were that didn't seem to respond that much to punching in the nose, but they did seem to respond to hits on the gills and the softer side.
Shark strength Myths
The MythBusters did four tests involving shark strength myths:
- Pulling down three floatation barrels
- Pulling a boat backwards
- Smashing a shark cage
- Smashing a wooden boat
In order to test these myths they had to estimate the size and strength of great whites. The largest great white known to science was caught off Prince Edward Island and was 21 ft (not weighed). According to Shark Attacks of the 21st Century by Ralph Collier, the largest shark on record was 19 ft long and weighed 4680 lbs. They decided that 17-19ft, 3000 pounds, would be a good 'average' for a mature, female great white.
In order to estimate the speed of a great white, they relied on calculations made from videos of great whites breaching the surface. Based on the video, they believe that great whites are capable of doing 20-25mph.
They also needed some rules of thumb for how strong a shark of that size might be. They tried to get some data off the coast of SF by heading out to the Farallon Islands, a well-known shark spot 27 miles off the coast.
photo by dreamsindigital
While Adam curled up in the fetal position due to seasickness, Jamie threw some seal decoys out in the water to see if they could get some sharks to grab them. No sharks were biting, especially not great whites, of which there are only a few hundred along the entire west coast.
Plan B: fly to the Bahamas and test there
With help from the Bimini biological research station, they caught some Caribbean reef sharks (max length of 6 feet, much smaller than great whites). Adam managed not to get seasick this time and they were able to measure a max force of 30 lbs and a steady force of 15 lbs. For towing a boat or submerging the barrels, the steady force measurement is more relevant as they require continious force.
The Caribbean sharks weighed in at 45 lbs, which verified the rule of thumb that the maximum force a shark can exert is it's own weight, and the maximum continous force a shark can exert is 30% of its weight.
The setup for all four shark strength myths was similar. They used an abandoned dry dock. To simulate the shark they borrowed an MTVL (Mobile Tactical Vehicle Light) from United Defense: 28,000 lbs, has 400hp, and can do 0-20mph in 7 seconds.
Shark Strength: Boat Pull
Myth: could a shark tow a boat like the shark did in the movie Jaws (with water flying everywhere)
They connected the Orca V to the MTVL and accelerate to 25 mph. At 25 mph the MTVL was exerting 4000-8000 lbs of force and a cleat was wrenched out, ending the run (much like in the movie).
The result looked very much like the movie, but the force measurements showed that the shark would have to be able to exert double its weight to replicate the pulling in the movie Jaws (i.e. with the water spraying over the bow/stern).
Myth: can a shark pull three floatation barrels under water?
They managed to procure three of the original barrels from the film from a fan on the Internet.
Adam "The only thing we're told we can't do is burn them, blow them up, or lose them"
Tory: "Has he watched this show?"
Using the MTVL, it took 1200 lbs of foce to submerge the barrels. Their average estimated shark would not be able to hold the barrels under water, though it could temporarily submerge them:
- 17-19 ft shark, 3000-4000 lbs
- 30% of its weight on continous pull: 900-1200 lbs of force (ooooo, pretty close)
Shark Strength: Shark cage smashing
Myth: Can a real shark actually destroy a shark cage like the shark did in Jaws.
There is no record of a great white ever destroying a shark cage
Adam recreated the shark cage from the movie while Kari, Grant, and Tory handled the shark ram, the 'Sharammer.' The target was 25 mph, 3000 lbs.
Grant: "3000 pounds at 25mph.. that's gonna be some shark ram"
The sharammer was made by making a foam shark head, making a fiberglass mold of it, then using polyurethane from an art shop to rubberize it. The shark head was attached to a giant metal pipe.
The MTVL towed the sharammer towards the boat, stopping short to allow the sharammer to ram under its own momentum. With water flying everywhere, the sharammer struck the shark cage and took part of the cage with it.
Shark strength: Boat (Orca V) smashing
Myth: in Jaws, the shark pierces the side of the Orca and attacks the occupants within.
The setup was similar to the sharammer cage smashing. This time the sharammer pierced the size of the wooden boat and left a hole, though not quite Jaws-sized. The hole was above the waterline so the boat stayed afloat.
confirmed (a 3000 lb great white travelling at 25mph could pierce a boat)
Scuba tank explosion
Myth: In the movie Jaws, Brody fires a bullet at the bottom of a scuba tank in the shark's mouth, causing the scuba tank to explode and kill the shark. The book and movie differ in the ending. In the book by Peter Benchley, the shark is killed by a harpoon. Spielberg changed the ending for a more explosive effect, but Benchley did not think it was believable. Spielberg didn't care, as he felt that he could make the audience believe it.
In 1998, a Florida dive shop technician, Chris Hawkins, lost part of his hand after a tank suddenly ruptured while he was checking its pressure.
They were able to get the actual scuba tank from the movie, which allowed them to verify that it was an aluminum 80 tank (instead of a steel tank). An aluminum 80 tank has 80 cu. feet of air at 3000 psi, which equates to 1.3 million pounds of explosive force.
Setup and Test
Adam and Kari built a foam shark head to hold the scuba tank. A 30-06 rifle was positioned at point-blank range. The entire setup was placed in a shipping container to contain any explosion. The FBI experts also attached C4 to the tank just in case it didn't explode and needed to be disposed of safely.
They tested first with empty tank to see if the bullet could go through bottom of the tank as it did in the movie. Adam didn't think it would go through, despite the fact that the 30-06 pierced two plates of bulletproof glass in a previous mythbusting. The result: it went completely through.
They next tested shooting a full tank through the bottom. The tank flew around the tank like a rocket, reminiscent of CO2 cartridge cars.
They also shot the tank through the side just in case anyone complained and got similar results (note: the bullet didn't make it through both sides of the tank). Their final test wasn't really a test. In order to make thing go 'boom' they decided to blow up the tank with C4. It made a good blast that dented the side of the container and shredded the foam shark head. Half of the tank was blown off, though the rest of it looked pretty solid still.
mythbusted: a bullet could not cause the tank to explode.
Myth: in a deleted scene from Jaws, one of the characters buys #12 piano wire to use as leader on the line for catching great whites.
Adam picks up some of the piano wire and asked the expert what the breaking strength was. The expert estimated it at 300lb of breaking strength (piano wires are tensioned at about 200 lbs). In testing, the wire broke at exactly 300lbs, which isn't close to catching a great white.