Jeremiah Sullivan: Shark Week's suit maker
Who crafts the chain-mail armor that keeps Shark Week explorers from being turned into shark bait? Meet former marine biologist Jeremiah Sullivan.
What percentage of the people we see during Shark Week, which kicks off Aug. 12 on Discovery, use your suits?
Anytime somebody’s interacting with sharks, generally there’s some of our products there. Sometimes people hide them under wet suits or under clothing. So when you see these wild shots of a Shark Week host jumping in the water in civilian clothes, they’re wearing our protective gear beneath whatever they’re wearing.
How did you realize chain mail was the best defense against sharks?
If you think about it, sharks’ teeth tend to look like an arrowhead, and chain mail was once used to protect against those kinds of sharp-edged weapons. So [I knew] if I could just find a suit of chain mail, I’d have a physical barrier of protection…. There’ve been many people who’ve come up with all sorts of gizmos — and I’ve seen those things eaten by sharks.
How much has chain mail advanced from the Middle Ages to when you founded Neptunic Sharksuits in 1980?
[Traditionally] it was individually handmade and riveted and very expensive — it would take a year to make a suit of armor. Nowadays we can build two per week when we have a big batch to do. We generally try to take it a little slower, but you’ve got about half a million welded stainless-steel rings in every shark suit you see on Shark Week.
Who else buys your suits?
We do have some peculiar fans. We get lots of inquiries from people needing protection from the zombie apocalypse. They see our shark suits as the solution to the zombie apocalypse. And, you know, I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t work just perfectly in that situation.