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Crazy dive with Whale Sharks


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#1 Rocha

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Posted 29 October 2009 - 06:33 AM

So... I have about 2,000 logged dives, never saw a Whale Shark, that is until about a month ago. Some colleagues and I were invited for a workshop at the Atlanta Aquarium, and because we are scientists they took us to dive in their Whale Shark "tank".

That was one odd dive let me tell you. First off, they don't allow you to take your camera, which is a bummer, but I had a friend taking pictures from the outside. Second, the only piece of your own gear that they let you use is your mask, everything else is theirs (unless you are Rich Pyle, in which case they let you take your rebreather :uwphotog: ). The so-called fins gave me cramps the minute I hit the water! Speaking of water, it was COLD! About 76 degrees, but they only give you this thin wetsuit, so I was freezing! When you get situated in the bottom something very odd happens, you hear somebody talking over a speaker "welcome to the Georgia Aquarium", blah, blah, blah... I spent those first 15 seconds wondering if the entire dive was going to be narrated, but thankfully it wasn't! The whole thing is VERY tightly controlled, you can't touch anything. Needless to say, it wasn't a very pleasant experience for me. Different? Yes.

Ah well, so there you have it, my first dive with a Whale Shark (or four):
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#2 Scubamoose

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Posted 29 October 2009 - 08:10 AM

Sorry to hear that the dive was not so much fun that You expected and You could not get ur camera in there. Still You DID get to dive with whalesharks :uwphotog:
I would do the same thing anytime!!!
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#3 rtrski

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Posted 29 October 2009 - 09:46 AM

I imagine the equipment restriction is on the off chance your own dive gear has some latent biologicals on it? (Although I can't imagine how parasite polyps or whatever would 'survive' out of the water on gear not used in some time) Either that, insurance, or they just want everyone color-coordinated for the visitors to look at. :uwphotog:

Sorry to hear it wasn't that pleasant, but still sounds like it would be worth a try!

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#4 tdpriest

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 03:09 AM

I have real problems with large pelagic species in tanks...

... am I the only one?

Will eco-warriors mount a clandestine operation to film the capture and killing of whale sharks in forty years' time?

I, for one, think that I would be very wary of giving even tacit support to an aquarium without good evidence of their exhibits' tolerance for aquarium life, and, perhaps, a captive breeding programme. Think of the tragedy of mentally and physically damaged marine mammals in captivity...

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#5 .Greg

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 04:36 AM

I have real problems with large pelagic species in tanks...

... am I the only one?

Will eco-warriors mount a clandestine operation to film the capture and killing of whale sharks in forty years' time?

I, for one, think that I would be very wary of giving even tacit support to an aquarium without good evidence of their exhibits' tolerance for aquarium life, and, perhaps, a captive breeding programme. Think of the tragedy of mentally and physically damaged marine mammals in captivity...

Tim

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Tim,

While I agree with what you say about certain pelagics in captivity, bringing people face to face does personalize them a bit more which will persuade more people to support their causes. (Orcas in a swimming pool is absurd, not referring to them.)

If you want to go to the full tree hugger extreme perspective for just a moment, underwater photographers are very wasteful in terms of a high carbon footprint for their photo gear, travel, diving gear, diving transportation, etc. Absolutely none of it is an essential. Yet from a standpoint of personalizing the oceans, reefs, etc. I think recreational photography is a net positive for the environment.

#6 scorpio_fish

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 06:15 AM

Tim,

While I agree with what you say about certain pelagics in captivity, bringing people face to face does personalize them a bit more which will persuade more people to support their causes. (Orcas in a swimming pool is absurd, not referring to them.)

If you want to go to the full tree hugger extreme perspective for just a moment, underwater photographers are very wasteful in terms of a high carbon footprint for their photo gear, travel, diving gear, diving transportation, etc. Absolutely none of it is an essential. Yet from a standpoint of personalizing the oceans, reefs, etc. I think recreational photography is a net positive for the environment.


Apples and oranges. The direct impact to a specific species with a limited population is far different than the relative carbon footprints of various activities.

This aquarium has caused great debate amongst the dive community. Is the benefit of educating people worth the premature deaths of many whalesharks? That is the issue.
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#7 Rocha

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 08:08 AM

This aquarium has caused great debate amongst the dive community. Is the benefit of educating people worth the premature deaths of many whalesharks? That is the issue.


We had long conversations about this when we were there too, the reason for our meeting in the first place was marine conservation. What the aquarium officials assured us was that those whale sharks were "rescued" from the fisheries in Taiwan. In other words, for these specific individuals it was either be turned into shark fin soup or live the rest of their lives in a tank...

In addition, the aquarium funds several whale shark conservation projects.

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#8 xariatay

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 09:56 PM

We had long conversations about this when we were there too, the reason for our meeting in the first place was marine conservation. What the aquarium officials assured us was that those whale sharks were "rescued" from the fisheries in Taiwan. In other words, for these specific individuals it was either be turned into shark fin soup or live the rest of their lives in a tank...

In addition, the aquarium funds several whale shark conservation projects.


Will be going to Christmas Island -Australia, hopefully, to meet whale shark/s... :blink:

Here in Singapore, the animal protection & conservation group/s are working very hard to stop the upcoming casino/resort from acquiring whale shark/s for display. Initially I was also inclined to believe that the captives will make good ambassadors for their wild cousins... When we were watching The Cove premiere organised by an animal protection group, the asst director said "Nobody have met a real dinosaurs but most kids love dinosaurs. Education is the key."

Aquariums are big businesses, although there are a lot of passionate conservation people/ scientists, all are animal lovers, working in them but the most important kpi for businesses is the bottomline?? Anyway, there is only perfect intentions...

Edited by xariatay, 02 November 2009 - 10:11 PM.

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#9 ilovewhalesharks

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 06:30 PM

I'm sorry to hear about your first experience with whale sharks. Donsol, Sorsogon in the Phlippines is the place to go if you want to swim with whale sharks. Apparently the whale sharks migrate there from November to June due to the abundance of planktons in the area.I recommend you go there anytime from January to May because there's a 99% chance you'll have an encounter with at least a few a day. I know one of the articles linked from www.donsolwhaleshark.com talks about encountering 15 in 4 hours, but that's probably on the extreme end. In case you want less of a tourist crowd, I'd say go outside of March or April, as the place is packed then. Donsol is big on ecotourism and is also close to the manta bowl which is the cleaning station for the manta rays which you could supposedly find all year round.