Shark repellants. They work until they don't.
On Sunday, diver Gary Johnson was killed by a Great White shark minutes after entering the water off Esperance in Western Australia’s south-east.
Johnson’s wife, Karen Milligan, was in the water when the White attacked.
“I tried to hit the tail of the shark but it did nothing,” she told The Australian.
Milligan’s emergency call was succinct.
“My husband’s been taken by a Great White,” she told police operators.
Equally ineffective was Johnson’s government-subsidised Shark Shield, a device that can be attached to a surfboard or ankle.
In a social media post from 2017, Johnson had praised the device.
“In my nine years diving in Esperance (most weekends – weather permitting) I have only seen one shark – a bronze whaler who showed absolutely no interest in me,” he wrote.
The state’s Fisheries Minister, Peter Tinley, admitted the Shark Shields weren’t “fail-safe.”
“Nine out of times it does work,” he said.
Shark repellants do present an interesting case given their effectiveness is rarely tested.
Do you remember Modom’s $250 shark leash, built with magnets from New Jersey-based SharkDefense, a company that also sold a Batman-style shark repellant spray.
When Florida surfer Zack Davis was hit by a black tip while wearing a Sharkbanz bracelet he was contacted by the company who said it was the first time anyone had been attacked while wearing the magical trinket.
“What happened here is essentially the rarest of shark encounters,” co-founder Nathan Garrison said.
And Shark Shields?
They work until they don’t.
It’s unknown whether he was wearing the device or whether or not it was switched on.
Same with Johnson although you would think he’d flick the switch when he jumped in the water.
Hits by sharks in the pretty coastal hamlet aren’t a rarity.
In 2017, seventeen-year-old surfer Laeticia Brouwer died after being mauled by a Great White at a popular wave in Esperance called Kelpies.
In 2014, surfer Sean Pollard lost an arm and both hands in an attack during a solo sesh at Wylie Bay.
Meanwhile, police divers continue the search for Johnson’s body.