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Fabien Cousteau -- grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau -- has adopted a remarkable new way to study sharks in their natural environment: become one of them.

"Troy" is a custom-designed submarine allowing him to swim with Great White Sharks. Designed by a team of Hollywood special effects technologists and shark biologists, Troy is...

...an anatomically correct, 14-foot-long, 1000-pound, one-man “wet” sub (there’s water inside) that Cousteau operates in full diving gear. Troy’s experimental motors haul as fast as five knots. “The sub is an observational platform that lets me swim along at shark speed,” says Cousteau. “The whole point is to fool them into thinking I’m a shark.”

Troy moves with a natural tail motion fast enough to keep up with with shark packs. Its steel frame gives it sufficient strength to support the pneumatic propulsion system, but the material used to simulate shark skin is only camouflage, offering no protection. The eyes are sophisticated video cameras, used both for navigation and recording the activities of nearby sharks.

Apple has a lengthy story about Fabien Cousteau and the Troy project, complete with multiple photos of the shark-sub in testing. (The Apple pages are marketing for their video software, but the technical-sales sections are easy to skip, and only a small part of the story.) Cousteau has taken Troy out for several trips with sharks, and the results have been pretty spectacular. They treat him as another shark, including engaging in pack dominance-submission behavior with him. Cousteau doesn't believe that the sharks are 100% convinced by the sub, but it's sufficiently non-threatening and familiar that they don't bolt away or attack.

Most impressive, however, is Coutseau's rationale for this course of investigation:

Cousteau’s purpose in getting into the body of a shark is to shake up the way we view them. [...] "I want to show that they have cognitive brain power and that they can learn." [...] The oceanographer rails against what he calls “species solipsistic theory” — the belief that it’s unnecessary to understand anything outside our own species. “I want to open our minds to the shark’s way of understanding its surroundings,” he says.
Breaking out of species solipsism doesn't mean devaluing humans or human society, but understanding them as parts of a larger environment. Seeing the world beyond human systems will often require adoption of new tools and new methods. Becoming a shark to swim among them is an excellent example of this, and hints at how emerging technologies may be applied to improve our understanding of how the world works.

(Via Core77 Design Blog)

Comments (9)

but the material used to simulate shark skin is only camouflage, offering no protection.

Brave man!


I see darwin awards flashing before my eyes.

I'm just guessing, but that man has probably already swimmed with sharks many many times, and without camouflage.

Isn't anyone going to mention that this submarine was originally invented by Cuthbert Calculus in Herge's "Secret of the Unicorn"?

Jamais Cascio:

In the referenced articles, Cousteau actually gives credit to an old Tin Tin story he read as a child for his inspiration.

Jonathan Steigman:

"The Secret of the Unicorn" is the first of a two-part Tintin adventure, the second part of which is "Red Rackam's Treasure," which Cousteau referenced. I, too, read those books and grew up with the fantasy of a shark-shaped sub!

They do mention in the article that the soft skin surrounds heavy steel bands , so Cousteau is brave but not suicidal!


Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!

Micah Fitch:

yea it says about the frame: "Rib-caged. “That body could support a tractor
driving over it,” says Cousteau about
the shark sub’s steel skeleton."


ho ho ho and a bottle of rum, red rackam's treassure here i come!


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