Friday, April 8, 2011
April 8, 2011 : Shark Dart
The Farallon Shark Dart, a U.S. Navy weapon from the 1970s. The most common version resembles a slim dagger, with a CO2 cartridge in the handle and a long hollow needle for a blade. The idea was to stab the shark, causing the CO2 to be released into its body. The idea was that this would not kill it but would affect its buoyancy, forcing it to break off the attack without leaving much blood in the water. The reality may have been more gruesome.
"I saw some footage on it, it was horrible," says a diver describing the effects here. "Their bellies would inflate and they said it would force the shark’s stomach out of their mouths."
As well as the dagger, there was also a lance-like shark dart on a pole, and even a projectile version – a spear gun which fired a Shark Dart projectile. This seems to have been the inspiration for the shark gun firing ‘compressed air bullets’ used by 007 in Live And Let Die.
According to Tom LaPuzza of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, California, the Shark Dart was carried by SEAL divers who protected NASA astronauts after spashdown – but it was never popular, a view I found confirmed by others.
“We never had a history of any of our divers encountering hostile sharks during operational or training missions,” Tom Hawkins of the Naval Special Warfare Foundation told me. “It [the Shark Dart] was just more equipment to carry, when the threat didn’t warrant the extra weight or bulk.”
Farallon gave up making their Shark Dart long ago, though they still supply Special Forces with hi-tech gadgets such as Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPVs).