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Vol. 7, No. 4
August/September 2004


Swimming With Sharks 

by Paul Devlin Wood
photo by Steve Brinkman

Teaching the truth about sharks is the latest thrust in the ongoing educational mission of the Maui Ocean Center, the six-year-old super-aquarium that specializes in the sea life of Hawaii’s waters. Now two new features at MOC—Shark Dive Maui and Hammerhead Harbor—are setting people straight about all that Jaws nonsense.

In the big tank, the 750,000-gallon Open Ocean Exhibit, more then fifty species of fish swirl ceaselessly. There are nineteen sharks in there, five different types, including one tiger shark that prowls the upper waters lusting for the open sea. I watched two young women, Heather and Eileen—both PADI-certified divers—slide into the tank with assistant curator Jim Luecke and a bag of clams. They’d entered the tank tight-jawed and quiet, but forty minutes later, after hand-feeding the stingrays, finding shark teeth in the sand and remaining calm around the big biters, they came out radiant. "Fantastic!" said Heather. "I felt right at home," added Eileen.

The new hammerhead tank holds a collection of yard-long "pups" that circulate constantly, swinging their T-shaped heads. These are juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks, a species rarely seen by divers. MOC naturalists are on hand to talk about the many functions of those weird heads: everything from electromagnetic navigation to hydrodynamic "lift." These pups were collected in nearby waters, to which they will be safely returned when they’re a little older. For now, they are objects of human fascination—and a reminder that sharks are complex and extraordinary creatures.

Maui Ocean Center
(808) 270-7000