Shark Shield Technology device used in Block Island in Jamestown swim
Ben Tuff knows he’ll be “part of the food chain,” perhaps sharing water with the ocean’s supreme predator, the great white shark, when he swims from Block Island to Jamestown in late July.
This is why he will play it safe during the 10 to 12 hours of swimming and bring protective gear developed by an Australian company to repel sharks with electrical impulses.
“It’s nice to have peace of mind doing something to deter sharks, because once you’re out there you’re part of the food chain,” Tuff said. Tuff plans to swim the 19 miles from Block Island to Jamestown on July 31 to raise awareness and raise funds for the nonprofit Clean Ocean Access in Middletown.
Tuff, 40, director of admissions at Rumsey Hall School in Washington, Connecticut, hopes to raise $ 100,000. In 2019, he swam 23 miles nonstop around Conanicut Island to generate over $ 54,000 for Clean Ocean Access.
Growing up in Jamestown and still considering himself to be home despite having a job in Connecticut, Tuff has a great love for the ocean and wants to ensure its health and accessibility.
“We can’t just sit back and think our oceans will heal on their own,” said Tuff, who also serves on the board of directors of Clean Ocean Access. He says the organization works “day in and day out to remove marine debris, improve water quality, and protect and preserve access to the shore.
“Their work has to move forward,” he said, “so I’m helping make that happen.”
Dave McLaughlin, executive director of Clean Ocean Access, said “the organization’s work to protect the ocean never stops.
“Whether your passion is professional sailing, recreational surfing, relaxed walks along the shore, fishing as a family tradition or peaceful rest on the beach, our work will take bolder steps and greater strides to improve the health of the oceans for the state of the ocean, ”McLaughlin mentioned.
To prepare for his fundraiser, Tuff swims two hours a day in the ocean with a longer swim once a week. He swam in a pool all winter before moving to a pond near work. Earlier this year, he swam around Key West, Florida, a 12-and-a-half-mile trip.
He decided to swim from Block Island to Jamestown because he wanted to “improve the game a bit” after swimming around Conanicut Island.
Tuff’s next swim will bring new challenges. By crossing Rhode Island Sound and into Narragansett Bay, it could share the ocean with sharks. To reduce the chances of unpleasant encounters, Tuff bought a “shark shield” from an Australian company called the Ocean Guardian.
The company’s “Shark Shield technology consists of two electrodes which, when both submerged, emit a three-dimensional electric field surrounding the user or area,” the company says on its website. “When a shark approaches a few meters [sic], the field (emitted by the device) causes muscle spasms in the shark. It does not harm the shark in any way, simply producing a high level of discomfort. “
He adds: “Shark Shield technology is the only electric shark deterrent in the world, scientifically proven and independently tested. “
Tuff could indeed share water with white sharks, makos, blue sharks, foxes, tiger sharks and even hammerheads, according to Jon Dodd, whose Atlantic Shark Institute has already tagged two white sharks in Rhode Island waters this season.
“If I was swimming from Block Island to Jamestown I would be careful,” Dodd said.
Sharks are more likely to swim in the deeper waters south of the island, Dodd noted, but there’s nothing preventing them from swimming north into Block Island Sound.
Dodd knows the technology Tuff will be using, but he’s been underwater in cages and watched white sharks shoot like rockets to the surface to attack a meal. He wonders if an electric shock can stop them once they start their attack.
Dodd believes the shield would be more effective against other types of sharks, such as blue sharks, who tend to search and investigate before deciding whether to bite or not.
Offering Tuff an added measure of protection, he will be accompanied by people in two boats and a paddle boarder.
Sharks will not be his only concern. “The currents are brutal, but I hope I can use them to my advantage,” he said. “Jellyfish are a pain. I get stung pretty much every time. Wind and choppy water can be a nuisance, too.”
On Twitter: @jgregoryperry