New alert system to warn beachgoers of sharks along Cape Cod

Device described as text-activated sound, light system

WELLFLEET, Mass. — Some beachgoers on Cape Cod will soon have a new way to look out for sharks.

As of this week, a new shark alert system now sits atop a cliff at LeCount Hollow Beach in Wellfleet.

“This really came out of the idea knowing that they have this buoy out there that detects sharks,” explained Kristian Sexton, the scientist and engineer behind the project.

Sexton told Boston 25 News on Friday that he’s been working in research and development related to shark detection for two years.

He described the device as a text-activated sound and light system.

When a shark pings a receiver in the water, the text alert that typically goes to lifeguards will also go to his device, triggering an alarm.

“The way the lifeguards know is via text message, so I’m thinking to myself, ‘Okay, if the lifeguards can get a text message, why can’t a light and audio signal get a text message?’ And the answer is it can,” he explained.

Once the alert is received, a siren and bright light is then activated to warn beachgoers.

“Kind of like a loud ice cream truck is the best way to describe it,” said Sexton, when describing the noise.

He added that lifeguards are also able to trigger the alarm if they spot a shark off the beach.

“It doesn’t just work off the buoy, it can be activated via text. If the lifeguards wanted to activate it, we can set something up where if they see a shark, they get a report of a shark, they can activate it.”

While the device isn’t in full-time use yet, Sexton indicated his goal is to have it up and running by August.

His motivation, he said, is keeping people like his niece safe while in the water.

“Her favorite thing in the world to do is surf on Cape Cod. She was out there this morning surfing. So this entire – everything I do related to sharks, is to make it so she can surf here.”

Wellfleet’s Director of Community Services, Suzanne Grout Thomas, commended the efforts and told Boston 25 News over the phone Friday that the town would be interested in potentially helping fund the project next summer in a new budget year.