BOAT IN A SHARKSKIN SUIT?
If you’ve ever taken a really close look at a shark, you probably had
other things on your mind, but the way sharkskin is constructed helps
them go faster. Shark scales (above, left), rather than being smooth,
have grooves that allow them to slide through the water more efficiently.
Competitive swimmers took advantage of that with full-body suits that
had tiny grooves based on shark scales.
Sharkskin has another, equally interesting property, though: It’s difficult for things to grow on it. That’s great for places that run the risk
of bacterial contamination, like surfaces in hospitals (including medical
devices) and commercial kitchens, and on a somewhat larger scale, it
could be great for boat hulls. Surfaces with a sharkskin texture (above,
right is the man-made replica) could prevent fouling from barnacles
and algae by making it difficult for colonies to get started. A company
called Sharklet is exploring marine applications with the support of the
U.S. Office of Naval Research, and says a recreational boating application
could be available in the next few years. For a real-world example of “
bio-mimicry” in action, see our “Innovators” feature on page 53 for a new
low-copper paint that is said to repel barnacles. — CHRIS LANDERS
Your State Boat, Mon Cher
LAWMAKERS IN THE PELICAN STATE voted in May to make the pirogue Louisiana’s official state boat. The pirogue (pro- nounced “pee-rogue,” or “pee-row,” though there’s regional
disagreement) is a flat-bottomed canoe, originally made from a
dugout cypress log, but is now more commonly constructed plank-on-frame, or even made of fiberglass. Today a common hunting
boat paddled and poled in shallow bayou backwaters of Cajun
country, the pirogue has a
long tradition in Louisiana.
The first European settlers adapted them from
the dugout canoes of the
Native Americans; Lewis
and Clark used pirogues to
cross the Louisiana Territory;
and the iconic craft even
found its way into the Hank
Williams song, “Jambalaya”
(“Me gotta go, pole
pirogue, down the bayou”).
The law means the pirogue
can be used as a symbol on
official correspondence and
this makes Louisiana the
fourth state to designate an Louisiana’s iconic craft, the pirogue.