The man who WANTS to be bitten by sharks: Scientist who creates super-strong wetsuits tests them by thrusting his limbs into the predators’ jaws

  • Jeremiah Sullivan is a marine biologist based in San Diego who is best known for his research into sharks
  • He has created and tested a number of designs of chainmail suits since he filed his first patent in 1980 
  • Now he has tested the latest version of his super-strong suit which he says was built to withstand an axe-blow 
  • In footage to be broadcast on Monday he let a deadly 14-foot tiger shark bite down on his protected arm 

A marine biologist who pioneered a ‘shark-proof’ wetsuit in the late 1970s is so confident about the strength of his invention that he regularly puts them to the test by thrusting his protected limbs into the predators’ jaws.

Jeremiah Sullivan is a marine biologist who is best known for his research into sharks and for his various designs of chainmail suits since his original design, patented in 1980.  

The San Diego based scientist has sustained thousands of shark bites with no significant injuries to himself, divers in his care, or the sharks with which he works.

Now, he has tested the latest version of his super-strong wetsuit, which he says was built to withstand the blow from an axe, by letting a deadly 14-foot tiger shark bite down on his protected arm.

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A marine biologist who pioneered a shark-proof wetsuit in the late 1970s is now so confident about the strength of his invention that he puts them to the test by thrusting his limbs into the predators’ jaws (pictured)

HOW DOES THE SHARKSUIT WORK?

Marine biologist Jeremiah Sullivan filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a wetsuit designed to protect wearers from shark bites.

It’s hard, lobster-like shell, was made of chainmail or steel mesh, with plates of tough plastic embedded in spots away from joints to preserve the wearer’s mobility.

Writing in the patent, he said: ‘If the shark’s teeth strike a hard surface, particularly a hard metal surface, the shark will ordinarily back off.’ 

Neptunic, the company Mr Sullivan founded in 1978, still sells modern variants on this design – costing $5,000 (£3,990) in stainless steel and $25,000 (£19,940) in titanium.

His more recent venture SharkArmor, launched in 2013, uses ‘Blackmaille’ armour that is designed to be stronger, lighter and stealthier than previous versions. 

The feat will feature on an upcoming episode of the National Geographic wildlife documentary series Man Vs Shark.

Viewers will see the moment that the tiger shark used more than 400 pounds of force to clamp its jaws down on the intrepid aquatic explorer’s chainmail suit. 

Incredibly, Mr Sullivan walks away from the encounter with just a few dents and scratches to the suit.

Speaking about the experience, he told the Daily Beast: ‘I’ve been bitten thousands of times. Been thrown around a bit. Beaten up pretty good. Nearly had my teeth knocked out. Certainly chewed on a lot.

‘I felt pretty confident in what I was doing but the tiger sharks I’d been saving for later. They’re known to have among the most destructive bites and to do a lot of damage when they get a hold of things and try to chew on them for a bit.

‘We weren’t sure what was going to happen. I had a lot of people with me that were quite sure that when one bit me, the other tiger sharks were gonna come swarm on me.’

‘I had to approach this thing knowing that it could be bad, but I was sure I was on the right track.’

Mr Sullivan is recognised as a pioneer of extreme interactions with sharks and has sustained thousands of shark bites with no significant injuries to himself, divers in his care, or the sharks with which he works.

His work with ‘Friendly Encounters’ with Great White Sharks in the open sea proved that non-aggressive encounters were possible with this powerful species, dispelling many of the myths that surround them.

He’s also known for his regular appearances on wildlife documentaries over the decades, including on Wild Kingdom, revived on Animal Planet from 2002.

During the early fifties in Hawaii Mr Sullivan learned to swim underwater before he could swim at the surface.

He began work in the early 70’s as a resident naturalist and divemaster in the world’s most remote areas aboard the expedition ship MV Lindblad Explorer, the world’s first cruise vessel used specifically to sail the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean. 

Viewers will see the moment that the tiger shark used more than 400 pounds of force to clamp its jaws down on the intrepid aquatic explorer’s chainmail suit (pictured) 

Incredibly, Mr Sullivan walks away from the encounter with just a few dents and scratches to the suit. Pictured: A shark approaches the scientist

Mr Sullivan is recognised as a pioneer of extreme interactions with sharks and has sustained thousands of shark bites with no significant injuries to himself, divers in his care, or the sharks with which he works. Pictured: A Tiger shark

Mr Sullivan’s work with ‘Friendly Encounters’ with Great White Sharks in the open sea proved that non-aggressive encounters were possible with this powerful species, dispelling many of the myths that surround them. Pictured – An encounter with a hammerhead shark

In the late 1970s, Mr Sullivan developed a flexible suit of armour for divers to wear while working around sharks and called it the sharksuit.

In 1978 he set up the Neptunic brand responsible for developing the suit, which has been referred to variously as a metal mesh sharksuit, chainmail anti-shark suit, steel mesh sharksuit and neptunic sharksuit.

It’s hard, lobster-like shell, was made of chainmail or steel mesh, with plates of tough plastic embedded in spots away from joints to preserve the wearer’s mobility.

Writing in the patent, he said: ‘If the shark’s teeth strike a hard surface, particularly a hard metal surface, the shark will ordinarily back off.’

Neptunic still sells modern variants on this design – costing $5,000 (£3,990) in stainless steel and $25,000 (£19,940) in titanium.

In 2013, Mr Sullivan left Neptunic to establish a new brand, SharkArmor, based on his previous research.

It uses ‘Blackmaille’ blackened-steel armour that is designed to be stronger, lighter and stealthier than previous versions.

Man vs. Shark premieres in the UK on Monday, July 15th, at 9pm BST on National Geographic Wild.

Mr Sullivan (pictured) is known for his regular appearances on wildlife documentaries over the decades, including on Wild Kingdom, revived on Animal Planet from 2002

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT MARINE BIOLOGIST JEREMIAH SULLIVAN?

Jeremiah Sullivan is a marine biologist who is best known for his research into sharks and for his various designs of ‘shark-proof’ suits. 

He is recognised as a pioneer of extreme interactions with sharks and has sustained thousands of shark bites with no significant injuries to himself, divers in his care, or the sharks with which he works.

His work with ‘Friendly Encounters’ with Great White Sharks in the open sea proved that non-aggressive encounters were possible with this powerful species, dispelling many of the myths that surround them.

He’s also known for his regular appearances on wildlife documentaries over the decades, including on Wild Kingdom, revived on Animal Planet from 2002.

During the early fifties in Hawaii Mr Sullivan learned to swim underwater before he could swim at the surface.

He began work in the early 70’s as a resident naturalist and divemaster in the world’s most remote areas aboard the expedition ship MV Lindblad Explorer, the world’s first cruise vessel used specifically to sail the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean.

In the late 1970s, Mr Sullivan developed a flexible suit of armour for divers to wear while working around sharks and called it the sharksuit. 

In 1978 he set up the Neptunic brand responsible for developing the suit, which has been referred to variously as a metal mesh sharksuit, chainmail anti-shark suit, steel mesh sharksuit and neptunic sharksuit.

In 2012 Mr Sullivan left Neptunic to establish a new brand, SharkArmor, based on his previous research.

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