Shark Week 2012 has been full of great footage, including shots of leaping great whites and amazing underwater scenes. But one particularly impressive piece of equipment, featured in "Air Jaws Apocalypse," may be the future of shark observation.
The Shark Spy camera fulfills a simple objective: get eyes in the water without actually getting in the water. As Shark Week filmmaker Jeff Kurr explained to The Huffington Post, this benefits sharks and shark observers alike.
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"Boats, divers, bait and chum can alter a sharks' natural behavior," Kurr wrote in an email to HuffPost. "To truly understand and learn about these animals we certainly want to see what they're doing naturally, without those outside influences... there's a lot more to sharks than just feeding time."
In addition to protecting sharks from the stress of invasive research projects, the Shark Spy's remote viewing capability also removes divers from the dangers -- and limitations -- of working in shark-infested waters.
"Shark Spy lets us go deeper into the world of the great white shark without risk of bodily harm to us," Kurr wrote. "It also allows us to spend a great deal of time with these animals without the restriction of limited [diving time] you have to deal with on SCUBA. "
The new technology has already helped unravel a mystery. On "Air Jaws Apocalypse," Shark Spy allowed the crew to see why the great whites were visiting an inshore reef that was too dangerous for diving. Through use of the camera, the team discovered that the great whites were preying on other sharks.
"In the past, to learn about a great whites' diet, you had to cut the shark open and kill it to see what it'd been eating. Obviously, we don't want to have to kill these animals to learn about them. Especially considering their highly vulnerable status," Kurr said.
Environmentalists are currently working to add great white sharks off the California coast to the endangered species list, Reuters reports. Studies suggest there are fewer than 350 of the sharks in the area.
Groups say the sharks are "threatened by chemical contaminants" and sometimes get caught in "fishing nets," according to KTVU.