SciTechBlog   « Back to Blog Main
June 27, 2008

Shark Bait!

Posted: 03:18 PM ET

I remember the moment I fell in love with marine animals. I was ten years old, visiting Sea World in San Diego with my family, when I saw two scuba divers swimming in a tank of dolphins. That’s all it took.

Waving to aquarium visitors through the glass at the Ocean Voyager exhibit.

Fast forward twelve years. A degree in marine biology and a few marine science internships later, I’m still that same 10 year-old redhead who gets giddy every time I see a scuba diver in an aquarium.

So imagine my excitement last week when I found out that I was going to scuba dive in the world’s largest aquarium with the world’s largest sharks.

Everyone jokes that they are going to throw their interns to the sharks, but the CNN Science and Technology producers weren’t kidding.

Turns out the Georgia Aquarium had offered me a once in a lifetime chance to swim with whale sharks, rays, and the thousands of other fish in their football field sized Ocean Voyager tank. It’s all part of their new Swim With Gentle Giants program that lets the public scuba dive with these majestic animals one half hour at a time.

I couldn’t pull on my wetsuit on fast enough. Before I climbed down the ladder into the 6.3 million gallon tank, people kept asking me if I was scared of what I was about to do.

Truth was, I was more nervous that I wasn’t going to remember how to scuba dive than to look blacktip reef sharks in the eye.

A summer of volunteering at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans taught me that most sharks are the not frightening animals as the movie Jaws would lead us to believe. No need to insert the movie’s theme song here…

Sharks have very slow metabolisms so they don’t need to eat often. Like baleen whales, whale sharks are filter feeders, meaning they would be more interested in plankton than me. I wasn’t even frightened of the other sharks in the tank. Thanks to a hardworking aquarium team, they are fed regularly enough to keep their stomachs happy and most of them don’t find the taste of humans appealing anyway.

One of the Georgia Aquarium’s whale sharks swims gently by divers.

So there I was, swimming through schools of French grunts, kneeling next to cownose rays, and coming face to face with giant grouper. All the while, the white underbellies of the four juvenile whale sharks slid silently by above our heads. It was only after the hammerhead shark came within one foot of me that I remembered I was trespassing on their turf. But they didn’t seem to mind.

Millions of people visit the Georgia Aquarium each year, and, like me, this will the closest they will ever come to whale sharks in their lives. And that’s exactly what the aquarium wants.

These four whale sharks are ambassadors for their species. Gently swimming through their giant aquarium habitat everyday, they are not only educating the public on the beauty of their species but also the threats to their population. Like most shark species, whale shark populations in the wild are a fraction of their historic levels.

So the next time you get nervous about swimming in the ocean because you think sharks may be roaming in the deep blue water, remember they are treasures of nature not monsters of the deep.

And if you have trouble getting over your fear of sharks, memorize this fact I read in a GA Aquarium pamphlet after my dive: ‘According to a National Geographic article on shark conservation, New Yorkers bite more people each year than sharks do.’

Happy swimming everyone.

(Note to my producers: you can throw me to these sharks any day).

For more information on the Ocean Voyager exhibit and the Swim With Gentle Giants program, please visit Georgia Aquarium website at

- Julia Griffin, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: Animals • Oceans • Sharks

Share this on:
Larian LeQuella   June 27th, 2008 3:22 pm ET

You are very lucky Julia. When I took my family to the Georgia Aquarium, the first question my daughter asked was if she could swim with the sharks herself. Sadly we had to settle for looking at them through the incredibly thick windows to the aquarium.

So, how do I get my 12 year old to take your place? 🙂

S Callahan   June 27th, 2008 5:36 pm ET

Julia, Your descriptive blog made it a nice read..i actually could feel your excitement in the dive...don't know if my nerves would have been as calm with the hammerhead so close though... Happy Diving 🙂

Wade   June 29th, 2008 3:57 am ET

Julia, your article reminded me how much love aquariums, perhaps not to the "depths" that you do. What a delightful piece. Thanks.

Nick O.   June 30th, 2008 12:01 am ET


Franko   June 30th, 2008 6:39 am ET

Squid, octopi, sharks – alien brains.
What are they thinking ? – Taste that human, or sallow whole ?

Dogs, dolphins, other pack animals, you get some warning.

Moe   June 30th, 2008 9:40 am ET

Franko... exactly what kind of warning does a dolphin give before attacking? The ol' Flipper chip? You're a tool, stop posting. period.

Julia, awesome chance and experience. If you want to swim with whalesharks more, go down to mexico. You can go on "adventure tours" where they take you out to do just that and it's for over an hour. Fantastic experience to say the least.

Gavin Way   June 30th, 2008 1:44 pm ET

Great piece. I'm a 20 year-old diver at the National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB). Your article reminds me exactly of many of the feelings I had when I started there a year and a half ago. I've always been enfatuated with the sea, and I really appreciate the ability to educate the public about the sea that the NAIB provides me. I just hope my efforts don't come too late in the struggle to save the world's oceans!

Larian LeQuella   June 30th, 2008 2:01 pm ET

Is it just me, or does it seem that Frank does not speak English, or human for that matter? 🙂

holly   June 30th, 2008 2:33 pm ET

great article. sharks get a bad rap. they are more endangered than people know,

Texrat   June 30th, 2008 2:36 pm ET

It's easy to cavalierly disregard sharks as not "terrors of the deep" in an aquarium surrounded by the well-fed variety... but to say we don't need to be nervous near them in the wild is absurd. Sharks don't care that we don't taste good– they bite us first anyway to find out. By then the damage (usually severe) is done.

And it really doesn't matter how rare attacks are– all it takes is the one. I'm not taking any chances. Shallow water is fine for me... especially as more and more sharks in the wild are driven closer toward shore to find rapidly-diminishing food.

So please don't give people this naive notion that "sharks are our friends". They are not. They are interesting creatures, but very lethal and our sentiments mean nothing to them. They will bite you regardless of how you feel about them.

Scott W   June 30th, 2008 4:16 pm ET

Wow, sounds like your internship is awesome! Let me know when they have an opening and i´ll hop in the tank with the sharks too. See you at school soon!

Theresa   June 30th, 2008 4:26 pm ET


Yes, it's taking a chance to dive with sharks. They are wild animals, not pets, and it would be foolish to say otherwise. Still, it's also taking a chance to drive a car, or ride an airplane, or keep a dog as a pet – all of these activities are much riskier than diving with sharks!

And not all sharks are alike – there are nearly 400 species, and only a handful are dangerous to humans. Even these almost never attack unless provoked.

There are precautions to take – free diving with great whites is just a bad idea, and spearfishing or swimming at dusk (when it's harder for the sharks to see what's food and what isn't) should also be avoided. But the risks, for me at least, are much less than the benefts of diving with these amazing animals. Sharks have been demonized in the media for decades – a little less fear and more understanding is the first step towards saving them from the threat of extinction they now face.

S. Root Pulliam   June 30th, 2008 11:09 pm ET

Julia- every time I read about your adventures, I am so excited for you and proud! Keep it up!

Dylan Pfeifer   July 2nd, 2008 2:58 am ET

It's not the frequency of their bite that is the problem, but the magnitude.

Franko   July 2nd, 2008 3:06 am ET

“Tillikum and two female whales held the trainer underwater until she drowned” – “Tillikum apparently killed a man who had snuck into a marine park to swim with the animal after the park had closed”

Sometimes the thrill gets killed.

Nancy B.Griffin   July 2nd, 2008 5:30 pm ET

What a treat to see my granddaughter on CNN.I wish I were young enough to start a new career. I was born too soon to be a part of the wonderful new world that is opening up to your generation. Looking forward to more adventures from my family tree "twigs"

Franko   July 10th, 2008 5:13 pm ET

Jonah could not be digested. No deodorant or showers makes for stomach upset. Even all the Frankincense and Mir hair ointment did not improve the taste. Thrown up due lack of hygiene.

Little girls, to offset the sugar and spice, need defensive measures.
Skunk perfume bubble bath, before each dive, a must ?

James A. Melching   July 12th, 2008 6:28 pm ET

Hurrah for Mr. Pickens,however either the envirenmentalist or energy cartels will discover obstacles to thwart his plan. If these interests are not effective,then surely the Government will subvert anyone who shows any signs of entrepreneurship, Cynical you say? Examine the past .i.e, in pharmecuticals and see how long it takes to verify the efficacy of a new drug or potion Political and economic control always supercede and dominate prior to the Public benefit.. And you think God is the Higher Power? Caution, Spin and control is the status quo in the Global Markets. Jim

Hairstyles VIP   December 13th, 2020 4:43 pm ET

Another thing I have really noticed is the fact that for many people, a bad credit score is the response to circumstances further than their control. One example is they may be really saddled through an illness and as a consequence they have higher bills going to collections. It would be due to a employment loss and the inability to work. Sometimes breakup can really send the finances in the undesired direction. Thanks for sharing your ideas on this website.

Crave Freebies   December 13th, 2020 8:48 pm ET

It is the best time to make some plans for the longer term and it's time to be happy. I've learn this put up and if I may just I want to recommend you few attention-grabbing things or advice. Maybe you can write subsequent articles relating to this article. I desire to learn more issues approximately it!

No-Match Blackpool Central   December 16th, 2020 2:00 am ET

Has anyone ever been to E-Life Anoka? x

Allyn Salzman   December 20th, 2020 5:17 pm ET

There are some fascinating points in time in this article however I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There’s some validity but I will take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like extra! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

Abbey Mcmahen   December 21st, 2020 8:34 pm ET

You could certainly see your expertise within the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren't afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

Nu Debem   December 24th, 2020 12:10 am ET

Hello there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I'm getting sick and tired of WordPress because I've had problems with hackers and I'm looking at options for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

Geneva Currier   December 24th, 2020 1:37 am ET

Valuable info. Lucky me I found your website by accident, and I am shocked why this accident did not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

reduslim stiftung warentest   December 24th, 2020 9:32 am ET

This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I've joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!

Major Mcfarlan   December 24th, 2020 10:17 am ET

My wife and i have been absolutely more than happy that Louis could complete his investigation by way of the ideas he discovered when using the blog. It's not at all simplistic just to always be giving for free information and facts a number of people have been making money from. And now we take into account we've got the website owner to thank because of that. Most of the explanations you have made, the easy site menu, the friendships you can help engender – it is most astonishing, and it is assisting our son in addition to us imagine that the matter is cool, and that is exceedingly essential. Thanks for all the pieces!

Free Stuff   December 24th, 2020 7:52 pm ET

Excellent web site. Plenty of useful info here. I抦 sending it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you for your sweat!

Lorilee Spacht   December 27th, 2020 6:00 pm ET

Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I am very glad to see such magnificent information being shared freely out there.

Coralee Wechsler   December 27th, 2020 11:46 pm ET

With every thing which appears to be building throughout this specific area, your viewpoints happen to be very radical. Having said that, I appologize, because I do not subscribe to your entire theory, all be it refreshing none the less. It appears to us that your commentary are not entirely rationalized and in actuality you are generally your self not really wholly confident of your assertion. In any case I did appreciate reading it.

audi key fob replacement   January 4th, 2021 6:18 pm ET

I believe this internet site has got very great indited written content posts.

samochody ogłoszenia   January 5th, 2021 7:48 am ET

Uwielbiając informacje na tej stronie, wykonałeś świetną robotę przy artykułach.

auto locksmith vauxhall   January 5th, 2021 11:12 am ET

I really like looking at and I believe this website got some really useful stuff on it!

Demarcus Gentile   January 7th, 2021 8:06 pm ET

What is internet blogging and what is the best blog website?

wellbutrin prices   January 10th, 2021 1:45 am ET

I am commenting to let you know of the great encounter my friend's daughter found reading your web page. She figured out numerous issues, not to mention what it's like to have a wonderful giving mood to have men and women really easily have an understanding of selected hard to do subject areas. You really exceeded our own expectations. Many thanks for imparting the interesting, safe, explanatory and even easy thoughts on the topic to Janet.

Modesto Spyrakos   January 12th, 2021 12:00 am ET

This was novel. I wish I could read every post, but i have to go back to work now… But I’ll return.

Mattea   January 13th, 2021 8:55 am ET

can smoking too much vape make you sick

Joanna Budkey   January 13th, 2021 2:40 pm ET

Joanna Budkey   January 13th, 2021 2:52 pm ET

Joanna Budkey


Cristina   January 15th, 2021 5:19 pm ET

am i addicted to nicotine quiz vape

Leave Your Comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP