Sunday, March 7, 2010

Not Quite Davy Jones Locker

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Georgia Aquarium, http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/, as a blogger, specifically to explore their new exhibition Planet Shark: Predator or Prey, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx6xlLvYG1w. Now I have to admit, I've never seen Jaws and really try to avoid movies like that because I already have enough fear of what lurks under the sea, so I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about going to an exhibition that could potentially scare me out of the water for good. For the most part, that didn't happen.

When you enter the exhibit, they make you take your picture in the jaws of a shark, which seems counter-intuitive when the stated purpose is to make people less afraid of sharks. When you first enter there is an amazing collection of sharks teeth and jaws that give you an appreciation of these animals that have been around 440 million years. There was also a wall hanging that showed life-size outlines of a number of different sharks, which really put them in perspective. One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit was a section where they compared sharks to two other marine predators, the saltwater crocodile and the killer whale. I wonder if someone has amended the number of killer whale fatalities listed after the recent tragedy at Sea World. When people were commenting on twitter about the possibility of kids witnessing the attack, I could respond authoritatively, that there should have been little to no blood because killer whale teeth are more like human teeth and relatively dull, not razor sharp like sharks.

There were a number of factoids scattered throughout the exhibit estimating the likelihood of a shark attack, for instance did you know you are over 200 times more likely to be killed by a deer than a shark? Or that you are 10 times more likely to be killed in a sand-hole collapse at the beach than to even see an Oceanic Whitetip shark, let alone be attacked by one? The only problem I had was that quite a bit of the written information was of such a small size and posted at such a distance behind the crowd control barriers, I wasn't able to read it.

The main purpose of the exhibition is education, to dispel the myths surrounding shark attacks because there are several species teetering on the brink of extinction due to being hunted from fear or for financial gain (how about a tasteless, nutrition-free bowl of mercury poisoned water a.k.a. shark fin soup), their endangered food supply and their slow reproduction rates (Makos are sexually mature at 4-6 years and produce between 4-12 pups every 2 years after that), among other factors. If you would like to visit the exhibit and see for yourself, they have provided a coupon, although, due to the late nature of this post, it isn't good for long. I swear I had the best of intentions, but life has a way of interfering with my blog.