Discovery Channel’s Shark Week celebrated its 25th anniversary this August. As part of the celebrations, Discovery Channel teamed up with Volkswagen to create a very different type of shark cage – a Beetle shark cage.
The VW Beetle shark cage is more than just a shark cage shaped like a Beetle though. This Beetle can drive underwater too. The cage itself is built from lightweight aluminium and equipped with a pair of thrusters to power it along the seabed. It also has a modified instrument panel allowing the driver to get full depth and air pressure read-outs. And if it gets murky down there, and you want to see what’s coming at you, the Beetle shark cage has headlights too.
The build was completed with a fully functioning normal 2013 turbo Beetle by its side so the team, which includes marine biologist, Luke Tipple, could get the aluminium cage exactly right. They say that they are within a quarter of an inch of the original dimensions too. With pretty much standard 18” alloy wheels & incorporating the VW logo on a stalk so that it sits right where it would on a regular bonnet, I have to say it’s a fine looking achievement.
Anyone that lives by the coast and drives a land-going classic Beetle will know that the salty sea-spray and sea air can play havoc with your vehicle’s longevity if you don’t thoroughly protect your investment. It’s a thought these guys took on board too, because by using aluminium throughout, not only is the cage lightweight, but it is also going to be less prone to the ravages of the ocean and the car owner’s number one enemy – rust.
Shark cages provide a visual deterrent to sharks as well as providing safety to the divers. They also allow non-divers to be able to experience the thrill and excitement of being up close and personal with these majestic, great ocean going fish – if you’re brave enough.
This isn’t the first self propelled shark cage though, the idea was patented back in 1979, but this patent ran out in 1996 allowing others to utilise and build upon the original idea. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all just fun and plain sailing though, in 2007 a 15-foot long Great White shark, in a desperate attempt to free itself, was reported to have torn a shark cage to pieces after getting caught up in the viewing window. The frightening scene was captured on film by tourists and became a huge YouTube hit. Such occurrences just go to illustrate that however rare such incidents might be, the risk is always going to be ever present when entering the world of the shark.
I’m just glad for these diver’s sakes that they didn’t choose the cabriolet version to model the Beetle shark cage on.
Images from assets.inhabitat.com, gearheads.org, corporate.discovery.com