Sting Rays, Shark Alley and Black Tip Reef!

Simon swimming

This morning Simon the stingray was overdue for a spine clipping. In the morning I worked with Katie, Emily, Jennie Janson, the assistant curator of Blue Wonders and a diver, and Josh Foronda one of Holly’s dive team. Katie and Jennie went down to catch Simon while Josh tended the divers (made sure nothing happened to them while diving), and Emily helped to cut Simon’s spine and measure and weigh him. After a few failed attempts to catch him he was finally on the platform being weighed and measured, his spine was cut so that he didn’t injure any of the many divers that come through the tank every day. Cutting a spine of a ray is pretty much like a fingernail, it grows back soon after. Simon was healthy and thrown back soon after. I of course asked if I could keep the spine since it’s such a cool souvenir!

Next I worked with Holly and her team in Shark Alley. Shark Ally is a 250,000 gallon exhibit with 16 individuals across 7 species, and the tank is only 9 ft deep. While Holly and Jackie Cooper, another member of Holly’s team did some training with Randy, a dummy (I don’t mean he was stupid he’s actually a mannequin), Jennie fixed up some of the base of Shark Alley, and I sat along the bottom collecting teeth. The part of the tank we were working in was blocked off so that the sand tigers, saw sharks and rays wouldn’t disturb us and we wouldn’t disturb them. Over the hour long dive I collected 69 teeth, not bad for my first time in the tank.

Zoey the zebra shark
Emperor angelfish

After lunch I got a chance to dive with Jackie in Black Tip Reef, I’m the first intern who has gotten to dive in this exhibit and it was amazing! The sharks are swimming all around you, fish are going crazy it’s a hectic place. The tank itself holds 270,000 gallons, and has 650-700 individuals across 80 species. The tanks ranges from 18-7ft deep, but it is mostly all shallow so shallow that my dive computer only registered 18 minutes over an hour long dive. Some of the highlights from the tank are the two zebra sharks. The female is named Zoey and the male is Zeke. Zoey is partially blind and she swam right into me hitting me in the mask, it was so cool to be hit by such a big shark! The same thing happened with Calypso the green sea turtle. She is missing one fin because she was cold stunned and that’s why she is at the aquarium. I was in the deeper end of the tank in front of an underwater viewing window when Calypso come by almost smacking me in the head with the bottom of her shell. Unlike Zoey she has no excuse. I quickly breathed out all the air from my lungs and descended a few feet as I saw camera flashes going off behind me and bubble spilling around Calypso. She kept on swimming and I managed to get off one great shot of her coming at me. It was truly an amazing dive.