TUCSON, AZ — Researchers in the Bahamas for Shark Week this year got everything they came for thanks to an underwater apparatus providing the perfect camping site for spotting the great hammerhead shark.
“The team in Andros wanted to stake out the great hammerhead shark, this is the largest hammerhead shark and it’s a very rare shark so you need to be in the water long enough for observation,” said Dr. Winslow Burleson.
Dr. Burleson, a professor at the University of Arizona, and professional diver Mike Lombardi had the solution: an underwater tent they’d been developing for nearly two decades. Essentially it provides a semi-dry environment filled with breathable air, extending time underwater tenfold.
“Right now the scuba tank gives you about an hour plus or minus, the tent can extend that, as you see on the show up to ten hours,” said Dr. Burleson.
Anchored in place, it floats silently in the depths. The scientists dive down and enter through the bottom of the tent, emerging into a lab-like space you’d imagine on a mission in outer space.
“Sharks can sense if you’re in the water and so if they’re shy or they may be scared if you’re visible,” said Dr. Burleson.
The gamble on the innovation paid off, with scientists spotting three of the massive sharks during their time in the high-tech habitat. It was a thrilling moment for them and the men behind its creation, leading them to wonder what new discoveries may lay ahead as we continue to study this mysterious and rapidly changing environment.
“Who has what interests underwater and how can we make this accessible to the broadest population so that we can do the kind of science and adventure and experience a large part of our planet that we otherwise don’t have access to,” said Dr. Burleson.