Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Shark Dive!

Last Saturday Lori and I went to the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead here on Long Island, New York to go on a shark dive. Atlantis has a 120,000 gallon tank with 10 sharks, a loggerhead sea turtle, a grouper, a moray eel and a lot of assorted other fish. The Shark Dive consists of a brief educational program about sharks, a scuba lesson about the equipment we will be using, safety briefing (that was pretty much just "KEEP YOUR FUCKING HANDS INSIDE THE SHARK CAGE") and the dive itself.

Lori works at the aquarium and was required to go on the shark dive. The employees that have contact with the customers are required to experience first hand the many things the aquarium offers to see and do so they can better explain what they are really like, not just what they think they are like. The most exciting is the Shark Dive. Since she worked at the aquarium, she didn't have to pay to go on the dive, but I did. The normal charge is $155, but I got it for 1/2-price as her guest.

Saturday afternoon we arrived at the aquarium early so we had plenty of time before the shark dive. We went into the gift shop and bought an underwater disposable camera. We both thought pictures from our perspective inside the shark cage would be pretty cool. (Just for the record, none of the pictures came out.)

At 2:00 we met one of the instructors in front of one of the exhibits. Her job was to talk about what kinds of underwater life we would be encountering on the dive. This took about a ½ hour, most of which was by the shark exhibit. The call it the “Lost City of Atlantis Shark Exhibit”.

The shark exhibit is in a 120,000-gallon tank. You can look into the exhibit through large windows in the sides of the tank or in the water from a walkway around the top. There are tons of different types of fish in the tank besides the sharks. They even have a loggerhead sea turtle. Here are a few shots of what we saw in the shark tank.

I couldn't get good shots of the "good ones", so here are some pictures I found on the Internet. In order, loggerhead turtle, grouper, nurse shark and the one with all the teeth, the tiger sand shark.

When the instructor was done with her part, she took us upstairs to hand us over to the dive master. When we got upstairs we saw, I guess, about 50 people waiting to see the shark dive. The instructor says that the shark dive has become one of the most popular things at the aquarium to see.

We met Neil, the dive master who talked a little about what we would be doing. He explained things like the shark cage, the equipment we would be using and getting into a wet suit. The water in the tank is at 72F so a wet suit is definitely necessary.

After the initial briefing by Neil, we went into the changing area and got into our wet suits and then Neil helped us on with the weight belts.

Here we are ready to go.

But first, one last kiss in case we get eaten by the sharks.

Then we got into the shark cage. This is the picture the aquarium instructor took for our 8x10 souvenir photograph. We each got one.

Next we put on our masks. The each mask has a microphone and an earphone so we could talk to each other and listen to the the instructor up above as she talked more about the things in the tank.

Well, time to go swim with the fishes. Bye, bye! Bye, bye!

Then the cage was pushed out into the middle of the tank.

We waited a minute while Neil checked to make sure we both were ready to do this. We both gave him the go ahead and began lowering into the water.

When the cage hit the water, the water began leaking into the wet suits and the shock of how cold the water was hit us. You see, wet suits are called wet suits because you get wet while you are in the water. The 72F water leaks in through the openings for the arms, legs and neck. The water is quickly warmed by your body heat so the shock of the cold water lasts for just a few minutes.

The cage is lowered until just our head are above the water. They stopped at this level so we could check the masks for fit and adjust them if they leaked. They also wanted to see how we handled being underwater.

All of this was new to Lori, but most wasn’t to me. I became a certified scuba diver in the winter of 1972. I became interested in scuba diving after taking a couple of dives while on my honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico.

We were instructed to squat down and put our head under the water to make sure they fit correctly and didn't leak. Neil adjusted the masks a bit. Lori was very nervous, but gave the go ahead to go a little deeper.

The cage was now at a level where the top of the cage was out of the water, but we were completely submerged and could look around. It took a few minutes for Lori to get used to breathing with a regulator. At first, she had a little difficulty because she was nervous, but soon got used to it. I guess we were at this level for about 5 minutes when Lori asked to go deeper.

The cage was lowered a little more and was now completely covered by the water.

Pretty soon Lori was really getting into this and she asked to go down even farther. She was enjoying it so much, that eventually she asked that the shark cage be lowered right to the bottom. Here are some shots Lori’s daughter and son took of us through the glass in the sides of the tank.

Before you know it, our 30 minutes were up and we were brought up to the surface and the fun was over.

We survived the encounter with the sharks!

They gave us souvenir shark teeth to commemorate the day.

We were only supposed to get one shark tooth, but Lori arranged for us to get two. The larger one in the photo is the souvenir you can buy in the gift shop. The smaller one is from one of the sand tiger sharks in the exhibit. Lori asked one of the diver at the aquarium that maintains the tanks, to get a couple for us from the tank. He made a special dive the week before and got us each one.



Lori said...


BTExpress said...

Yea, I had a great time too my little sex kitten.

jillie said...

How cool is that!! I swam with black fin sharks in Tahiti. Of course, they fed them before we got into the water with them. Beautiful yet mysterious creatures they are!

Anonymous said...

Wow, cool! I want to do it too. Even from the other side of the glass, one can sense the beauty and power sharks have.

lime said...

wow, you guys look like you had a great time. i may swing from trees and fall from ziplines but scuba gear and sharks kinda freak me out. glad you had fun and thanks for sharing.

patti_cake said...

Wow that looks AWESOME. I am a chicken and would probably hyperventilate but I love the way you described everything.

Note to self: Must get a wetsuit. They make you look skinny!

Anonymous said...

those pics are VERY VERY COOL...

(I love the one last kiss one too)


aughra said...

So freaking cool. And Barbara has a lovely headstone.

aughra said...

I'll crying now, cause you're so wonderful. You gave everything to Barbara, and now you are having such an amazing relationship with Lori, and you were such a doll when we met. Do you have bodies in the crawl space or are you really this great, Tony? Jeez!!

Jodes said...

that is so cool!!!!