Do you want to see what is it like to swim with the sharks? Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) wanted to see how the great whites react underwater when they encounter a potential prey (or robot). In 2013, they made a robot, called the REMUS (Remote Environmental Monitoring Units) or SharkCam, equipped with six GoPro Inc NASDAQ:GPRO cameras.
Sharks display territorial behavior
They took it to Guadalupe Island of the coast of Mexico. The goal of the robot was to track and swim with the great whites. They accomplished it using acoustic tags that the robotic vehicle could follow. WHOI researchers initially thought it would be a simple procedure, but the video footage shocked them. The sharks attacked the robot that was tracking them to study their behavior.
The video footage taken using GoPro cameras shows that sharks displayed aggressive territorial behavior toward the robot. The way they attacked it wasn’t casual; it was clearly predatory attacks. The sharks lurked below the probe in the darkness. And then, they would swim up abruptly, biting onto the mid-section or tail of the probe. Researchers were expecting the ocean’s top predator to show little interest in the vehicle. They were surprised to see sharks swimming around and attacking the probe.
The GoPro camera survived multiple shark attacks
Researchers said sharks hunt seals near Guadalupe Island where the footage was filmed. The SharkCam recorded dozens of encounters with the great whites, and survived many of them. The video footage is providing researchers their first close-up view of the sharks’ predatory behavior in the vast ocean. It also reveals many details about strategies that the great whites use to hunt their prey.
The great whites are rarely a threat to the human swimmers. According to the University of Florida, there have been only 106 unprovoked great white attacks since 1916 in the U.S. waters.