UPDATED: Not only did Meredith Novack become the first woman to swim the almost 20-mile round trip route between Lanai and Maui on Sunday, but she also shattered the men’s record time by 44 minutes, and did it all with two tiger sharks trailing her.
Novack, a 37-year-old marathon swimmer based on Oahu, swam across the Auau channel from Lanai to Maui, in 11 hours and 1 minute.
Unbeknownst to the swimmer, her crew spotted two tiger shark following her for part of the swim, at least one of which was 15 feet long. The crew did not inform her until after she touched land. According to UPI, Novack was grateful for her ignorance. “I’m glad they didn’t tell me,” she said.
The crew could be mostly confident in Novack’s safety thanks to the Shark Shield she was using. “The only thing that kept me safe was the Shark Shield,” said Novack.
According to the Shark Shield website, the device consists of two electrodes that emit electric waves, creating an elliptical-shaped field around a swimmer or diver. Sharks have gel-filled sacs called Ampullae of Lorenzini, which they use to sense electrical fields given off by possible prey. When a shark senses the electric wave caused by the Shark Shield, the intense discomfort causes the shark to swim away. It was designed by the South African Kwazulu Natal Shark Board, which was also the first entity to employ shark nets for beaches.
Novack was not the first swimmer to use unconventional methods to deter dangerous sea life. When 64-year-old Diana Nyad swam 100 miles between Cuba and Key West, she donned a silicon face mask to protect against box jellyfish, which are deadly to humans. She tested the mask ahead of time by swimming through a mob of jellyfish. The tentacles could not penetrate the silicon.