Fabien Cousteau: Becoming A Shark – Part II

Why not read Part I here

I guess you will keep most of the footage on tapes, but will you have the possibility for live broadcast from the sub?

For post productions we will record on the tape drives located in the nose of the shark sub. On the other hand we will have through a relay system in between the shark sub and the boat, the possibility to do live broadcasting from the sub.  Hopefully, this is what we are going to do with apple computer in Ano Nuevo or Farallon Island close to San Francisco. We are planning to do live broadcasting with the Orange County and other school systems, where school students and adults will be able to ask me questions on shark behavior while I am piloting the shark sub amongst great white sharks. And I will be able to answer them back through the “supemask” communication system from Oceanics. It will be as interactive as one could be!

So we are doing something that has never been done before. It is definitely an unusual research platform, slightly risky.  What interests me the most is that it is a first person prospective that will give us a whole new view on sharks without all the artificial stimuli that we usually have around like open circuit divers in cages banging up against boats, and on the top of it the chumming that make the great whites act completely artificially. So we have no idea what they really are like….I am sorry I went on a tangent there. 

What is your dive team composed of? Or are you planning to be alone in the water? 

Fabien laughed and said “I haven’t found anybody to come with me in the water yet!

No seriously, we are going to have eight people, possibly ten. Although the boat we are acquiring is a bit small it is a 58 foot old fishing trolley that was completely rebuilt for the expedition. It is basically brand new but is originally from 1944. The fishing trolley makes me laugh because a boat used to kill fish is now going to be a platform to study and protect life on this planet, so it makes me very happy!

Due to budget constraints of these days, I believe it is going to be hard to have more than eight people aboard.

In the water we want to limit the amount of divers as well, mainly because of them being distractions with regard to observational research. There will eventually be a cameraman and a safety diver in the water. I believe we will not have more than 4 people in the water at the same time, including me. 

What is the contingency depth that the shark/submarine will reach?

The shark sub being a wet sub it is constricted to the same limits that a diver is limited to. Being equipped with a Prism rebreather, and given the right mix I could go to 360 feet. But it is not really relevant to the experiment. To make the most out of our time in the water and because of the research parameters we are working with like light source and   the natural habits of great whites we will probably stay within 20 to 30 feet from the surface. And also for safety reasons. 

When are you planning to start the sea trials?

The first trial will be in a pool to check for buoyancy between the stainless steel ribbing the foam within the ribbing and then the skin flex and my BCD, so that the shark is neutral.

Once we are done with that first stage we will go to Catalina Island in California, which has an enclosed bay that will give us a real sense of what it is like to be in that “real world” environment, and how the sub is going to react. From there we then go to the real tests.

Where would that be?

Open water in Ano Nuevo and Farallon Island. Then eventually we will ship the shark to Australia to dangerous reef and Neptune Island, where we will interact with other schools of great white sharks. That is the schedule…

Next week: More on the documentary!