Thursday, September 28, 2006

Last Sunday... the Shark Dive

Last Sunday started out fairly early... being that we had been up very late the night before. I was up by about 8:30 or so in order to get ready and have some breakfast. Our hostel had a decent breakfast for 7000 won. We had to be at the aquarium by 10:30. We tried to find some underwater cameras before going, but were out of luck. Oh well. Maybe next time. There were 10 people diving Sunday, and we were split into 2 groups. Those in the first group were the ones that had to catch an earlier train. Before being split off, we all had a bit of classroom training to start off the day. There were also many forms to be filled out, so that if the sharks decided they were hungry, we couldn't sue for damages. After the classroom time, those of us in the second group were free to go for a couple of hours. Nialls and I just stuck around the aquarium. The others, an older woman that none of us knew, and a couple that I hadn't really met before, but were friends of the group, went out to do their own things... eat?
The aquarium is quite nice, but it is just a small aquarium. No whales or dolphins or anything like that. Not even a sea lion! Their biggest exhibit is the huge shark tank, with 2 plexi tunnels going along/under it and windows on almost all sides. We watched the first group's pre dive training, done on a little ledge just over one of the tunnels. The training includes breathing, emptying water from the mask, clearing/de-pressurizing the ears, emptying the regulator (mouthpiece), and using the secondary regulator (a second one on the instructor, Michael's tank). While they were doing their training, one of the giant green sea turtles was hanging around, and ended up biting 3 of the guys on the ankle, one of them twice!!! They were laughing... We were laughing so hard. It looked so funny from below. They guys doing the training were supposed to be paying attention to Michael, but were also trying to keep a close eye on the turtle. Michael had to push the turtle away several times before it finally got the hint.
When they finished their turn in the tank, it was our turn. We got our suits on and then all of the gear. It is all SO heavy!!! One would think that the weight belt (~12 kg?) and the tank would keep you weighted to the bottom, but it does not. Even with all of that weight on, it felt like I was going to float away. Anyway, the training went without any problems. The turtle, thankfully, left us alone. After the bit of training it was time to descend into the tank. I had some trouble going down though, as my left ear would not pop, and was getting painful. I had to go back up before even reaching the bottom, to wait until the others were down before trying again. The second time down, it was okay. Michael said that he often has trouble and has to go up and down. It is such a cool feeling to be underwater walking around. It was not scary at all, even with the sharks and giant groupers swimming around us. After some photos (Michael had an underwater camera... and yes it is a very strange photo of me... I look a bit demented), we had a nice tour of the tank. All the while, people on the outside were waving and taking pictures. I think they were more interested in watching us than the fish and sharks that were in the tank. A bunch of waygooks (foreigners) in scuba gear... underwater! What a sight!!!
I wish we could have stayed down there longer. The time went by way too quickly.
Anyway... the sharks...
There are several kinds of sharks in the tank. The first link is pics of the actual ones in the tank. The biggest ones (and the most numerous) are the sand tiger sharks (also known as gray nurse sharks). They are very big and mean looking, but are fairly harmless. They are interesting in that they give birth to 2 babies, from 2 separate uterine chambers. It starts out with several eggs in each chamber, but the first to hatch, or the strongest in each, eats the others [more info]. Then there is the lemon shark [info]. There are 2 VERY COOL looking leopard sharks (also known as zebra sharks). When they are young, they have stripes, so although a leopard cannot change its spots, apparently, a zebra can change it stripes [more info]. There are a few white-tipped reef sharks, as well [info].
The other fish in the tank include 3 HUGE groupers [info]. We were told that the groupers (or one of them) ate several of the smaller sharks that were in the tank. We were told that one of the groupers, which just happens to be the biggest one, is quite stubborn, and if it is in your way, find another way, as it won't move. Apparently, in Australia, a giant grouper was caught, and when it was cut open, they found a human head. The green sea turtles, I've already mentioned. There are two of them in the tank. There are also dart fish, rays (the ones that haven't been eaten by the lemon shark), snappers, and plenty of other fish that I won't mention. There is a school of tuna swimming around, that were meant to be food for the lemon shark (it likes to have live fish to eat, not pre-killed) but are, obviously still there. The lemon shark decided to be picky and only wanted live rays and such, and so kept feasting on the other fish that were meant to be in the tank. As a result, they have a hard time keeping any rays or smaller sharks for people to see.
More photos; some of what is in the shark tank, some of creatures that are in other parts of the aquarium. And more photos of the shark tank fish (some of which I've used as links), and the other people diving that weekend.

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