The footage of decorated Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps racing alongside a great white shark was released on Sunday. In a bid to raise awareness for the Discovery Shark Week special being aired to try and change the stigmatism associated with these misunderstood sea creatures, a race took place to assist in raising the viewership numbers.
How Do You Get a Shark and an Olympic Swimmer to Race?
The team at discovery channel created a device whereby they were able to track the swimming speed of the shark. This device is referred to as the ‘cutting-edge water vehicle prototype’ featuring a light weight carbon fibre ‘pontoon bike’ which is trailed by bait. The bait is used to attract the attention of the shark. As the shark speeds after the device, in hopes to catch the bait, its speed is being measured.
Initially, this experimental device was tested on the speed of a hammerhead shark, which clocked an impressive 15 miles per hour (24.14 kilometres per hour). The hammerhead swam 50 metres in a mere 15 seconds.
If we were to compare this to the speed that Phelps reached when breaking the world record of 5.5 miles an hour (8.85 kilometres per hour). It is clear to see that by a landslide, the shark would win. However, to assist him the team at Discovery placed a monofin on Phelps, to simulate a shark’s movements. This would ultimately maximise his speed as well as the volume of water he would be able to push with each kick.
What was the Outcome?
The question on all sports bettor’s lips is, “So, who won?”
Here is how it all happened. Both the shark and Phelps were to swim 50 metres just off of the Bimini Coast, near the Bahamas. They were each timed while racing, and here is what the outcome is.
Phelps time was compared against both a hammerhead and a reef shark. He managed to swim 50 metres in 18.7 seconds.
The hammerhead beat him with a time of 15.1 seconds. However, he did manage to beat the reef shark by 0.2 seconds, who was swimming at 6 miles an hour (9.65 kilometres per hour)
Great White Shark vs. Michael Phelps
So, now we’ve heard about the times of Phelps against both the hammerhead and the reef shark. But we came to hear about what happened with the great white!
The great white clocked a speed of a whopping 26 miles an hour (41.84 kilometres per hour) which was recorded just off of the coast of Mossel Bay in South Africa.
To try and give Phelps the benefit of the doubt. The team at Discovery is aware that the great white cannot sustain such a speed for long distances, as it slows to conserve energy. With this in mind, they decided to extend the race to 100 metres, allowing Phelps to have a fighting chance against the shark, considering he is known for being an endurance swimmer.
For his race against the great white, Phelps entered into the 24-degree waters of Mossel Bay coast line. Phelps claims that the water was a lot colder to what he is used to, making that a challenge in itself.
To clarify, Phelps did not swim alongside the sharks.
So, Who Won?
Ultimately, Phelps managed to swim the 100 metres in 38.1 seconds. The great white, however, emerged victorious with a two-second lead, managing 36.1 seconds in 100 metres.
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