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Sparks

Getting Electrocuted By a Boat Won’t Save You From Being Eaten By a Shark

Donald, we’ve been over this.

Donald Trump and Jaws.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Former President Trump wants to know: Would you rather be electrocuted or eaten by a shark?

On Sunday, during a rally in Las Vegas, the Republican nominee floated the question for what is at least the second time this campaign season (an odd choice, perhaps, given that Nevada is hardly shark territory, and therefore his supporters there are unlikely to have given the question much thought).

Trump’s fear of sharks is well documented at this point, and I myself have given that question a fair bit of thought, as well. Personally, I’d choose electrocution because of its merciful speed, but unfortunately for both me and Trump, “electrocution” isn’t a realistic option in the scenario he went on to describe. According to Trump, an unidentified “they” want to make boats all-electric, which — according to the representative of a “boat company” Trump spoke to in “South Carolina” — would require a battery so heavy that “it can’t float.”

As Trump goes on:

“I said, let me ask you a question. And he said nobody ever asked this question. And it must be because of MIT, my relationship to MIT. Very smart. I say, ‘What would happen if the boat sank from its weight and you’re in the boat, and you have this tremendously powerful battery, and the battery is now underwater, and there’s a shark that’s approximately 10 yards over there.”

Can you believe nobody ever asked this question?! “By the way, a lot of shark attacks lately, you notice that?,” Trump briefly digressed before returning to his main point:

“... Do I get electrocuted? If the boat is sinking, water goes over the battery, the boat is sinking — do I stay on top of the boat and get electrocuted or do I jump over by the shark and not get electrocuted? Because, I will tell you, he didn’t know the answer. He said, ‘You know, nobody’s ever asked me that question.’ I said, ‘I think it's a good question.’”

Luckily for Trump, I answered his question last year. And, as the former president ought to be reassured, while all-electric boats are still in their relative infancy (and no mysterious “they” is trying to make them all-electric, anyway), boats more generally have been using batteries for over a century.

Furthermore, marine architects actually design their boats with the understanding that they may get wet. It’s true! The electric boat manufacturers I spoke with for my article told me that their designs typically meet a waterproofing standard similar to what is required for submarines, and that the high-voltage batteries on board are kept in puncture-resistant shells to prevent exposure even if the boat were to get incredibly mangled.

While electric shock is a danger in water, electric shock drowning is usually caused by faulty wiring at a dock or a marina. However, this overwhelmingly happens in lakes and rivers; saltwater, where most sharks live, is a better conductor of electricity than human bodies, so it will go around a swimmer to ground unless they grab something that is electrified, such as a dock ladder or a boat propeller.

All this is a long way of saying: If your boat — electric or otherwise — is sinking, electrocution might not even be an option for a swift, toothless death. You’ll have to deal with the shark 10 yards away, whether you’d rather or not.

And for that, I can offer no reassurances. After all, as a “very smart” person recently observed, there have indeed been a lot of shark attacks lately.

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Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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