Now Maughan, shark expert Sal Jorgensen and their colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are preparing for the groundbreaking Shark Café Camera project. One of the first steps was to evaluate various video cameras. The MBARI group decided to work with ReplayXD cameras that are used in off road racing and bicycling.
Maughan said that such cameras "have the resolution and low light capability, along with the form factor, which allows us to repackage the cameras for depths up to 4,921 feet." He said the team is leveraging other technologies in the design, including integrating sensor tags from the companies Desert Star and Customized Animal Tracking Solutions.
The researchers studied where best to place the cameras on the sharks. One possibility they explored was having a camera towed by a line attached to the shark. This setup, however, would cause the camera to be whipped around on the line as the shark executes deep dives and other swift moves.
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They decided instead to affix the video cam/sensor machinery to the shark's iconic triangular upper fin.
"The dorsal fin is nature's camera tripod when it comes to white sharks," Maughan said. "We can get a clear, stable video from the shark's perspective."
Early models used acrylic housings that were designed to withstand 2000 pounds of pressure per square inch. After the team refined the electronics, they began to experiment with polymers such as epoxy and urethane. Due to the success of those tests, they are now working with a strong epoxy that can be poured without producing bubbles.
Once attached to a shark, the video camera can record high definition footage at 30 frames per second for just over 24 hours, based on storage. Battery power is limited to 10 hours, but the researchers have incorporated highly efficient solar cells to harvest energy and extend the recording time by several hours.
"The trigger for turning on the video is done by detecting the shark behavior," Maughan said.