Olympian Michael Phelps, who is considered the fastest swimmer alive, raced a “simulated” great white shark on Tuesday, July 26th 2017, according to abcnewsgo.com.
The 28-time Olympic medalist and the “shark” swam off the coast of Africa in 56 degree weather. Discovery Channel published the video as part of Shark Week and it quickly caught viewers’ eyes.
A group of scientists worked with Phelps to first record the speed a hammerhead shark and then a great white shark, explained hollywoodreporter.com.
The team developed “a special device to record the sharks’ swimming speed.” Described as a “cutting-edge water vehicle prototype” made of lightweight carbon fiber, the “pontoon bike was trailed by bait to entice the shark to follow quickly behind as its speed was measured, ” added the source. “First tested was a hammerhead whose top speed was measured at 15 miles an hour; it traveled 50 meters in just over 15 seconds.”
Phelps swam 50 meters in the ocean off the Bimini coast and came in at 18.7 seconds, wearing a “mono fin” to “simulate a shark’s movement” and to “maximize his (Phelps’s) speed and the volume of water he was able to push with each kick,” explained discovery.com.The hammerhead swam the distance in 15.1 seconds. The reef shark swam at six miles an hour, with Phelps’ time being 0.2 seconds faster.
The great white shark’s top speed has been recorded as more than 26 miles per hour (able to swim 100 meters in 36.1 seconds) off the coast of Mossel Bay, South Africa, according to discovery.com.
But because great white sharks can’t sustain a high speed and must “slow down at times to conserve energy” the Discovery team extended the race to 100 meters, giving Phelps a “swimming chance” according to Discovery experts.
Phelps’ speed was just over 5.5 miles an hour when he broke the world record in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2009 World Championships, according to espn.com.
“Honestly, my first thought when I saw the (hammerhead) shark was, ‘There’s very little chance for me to beat him,'” Phelps said, added the hollywoodreporter.com.
Wearing a monofin to simulate a shark’s movements — and to maximize his speed and the volume of water he was able to push with each kick — Phelps swam 50 meters in the ocean off the Bimini coast and came in at 18.7 seconds, with the team comparing his time to that of a hammerhead and a great white.
Viewers, disappointed that the great white shark was actually a CGI creation, vented on Twitter. Shorty’s Bar posted, “The shark wasn’t even real. More like shark WEAK.” GotINSTRUMENTALS posted, “I was hoping to see this!”
Phelps noted in a Facebook Live video Tuesday that a shark doesn’t swim in a straight line. He also remarked that a side-by-side race with the predator would be impossible. Phelps also added that he made a statement before the show aired that he wouldn’t be racing a real shark, according to abcnewsgo.com.
“For those of you who are disappointed, I’m sorry for that,” Phelps expressed. “But I absolutely had one of the most exciting two weeks of my life being able to dive with these animals, and see these animals up-close and personal, and really, just honestly learning more about them,” reported etonline.com.
“This is one of the coolest, fun weeks of the year for me. Being able to watch Shark Week and just seeing everything about them,” added Phelps, according to etonline.com.