Famous Shark Cage To Be Unveiled At Aquarium Sunday

Monday, July 21, 2008 - by Thom Benson
Young "divers" enjoy the new shark cage at the Tennessee Aquarium.
Young "divers" enjoy the new shark cage at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Even in print, the flashback to the summer of 1975 and the blockbuster movie “Jaws” gets the heart racing. For some, either Peter Benchley’s novel or Stephen Spielberg’s film are the reason they won’t get in the water more than three decades later.

There may be no other creatures in the animal world more feared and more misunderstood than sharks. Visitors at the Tennessee Aquarium get an up-close view of the powerful bodies, strong and tooth-filled jaws of sandbar and sand tiger sharks in the Secret Reef.

These large animals are impressive looking with their icy stare that sends shivers down the spines of most people who see them. “Sharks are apex or top predators. These are the animals in the oceans that keep the complex food webs in check,” said Thom Demas, the Aquarium’s curator of fishes. “We hope that our sharks will inspire everyone to learn more about these misunderstood creatures.”

The Tennessee Aquarium is once again partnering with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to present sharks in a positive light – as an important part of the natural world worthy of conservation efforts. The Aquarium hopes to build on the popularity of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” July 27 through Aug. 3, by offering shark touch encounters, special dive shows and a brand new experience featuring a piece of cinematic history, the Peter Gimbel shark cage.

“Peter Gimbel custom designed this cage to be a free-floating platform to film great white sharks. The bars are still bent on one side where a great white attacked the cage,” said Nick Caloyianis, award-winning underwater filmmaker and shark expert.

This cage was used while filming the first-ever underwater documentary about sharks, “Blue Water, White Death.” In the film, Mr. Gimbel describes the cage as a “diver elevator.”

“This film was not only groundbreaking, it was the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s novel," said Mr. Caloyianis.

Tennessee Aquarium visitors will now be able to go into the cage and have their pictures taken with an image of a great white shark in the background.

“Blue Water, White Death” was recently re-mastered and will be shown in the Aquarium’s auditorium as part of the “Shark Week” activities on Wednesday, July 30, at 7 p.m.

Mr. Caloyianis will introduce this pioneering film with a pre-show presentation and recount what his mentor and friend, the late Peter Gimbel went through during the 12,000 mile, six-month quest to be the first to film great white sharks.

After the movie, Mr. Caloyianis will be available to sign copies of his new book, “The Shark Handbook – The Essential Guide for Understanding and Identifying the Sharks of the World.” Mr. Caloyianis said this book is written for readers who don’t want a science textbook. “I think it’s a great resource for anyone wanting to learn more about sharks.”

Each day during “Shark Week” divers in the Secret Reef will present “Fin-Tastic” facts about the six species of sharks at the Tennessee Aquarium. Visitors are invited to inquire about the shark’s teeth, eating habits and how they live.

Additional shark information will be presented at Shark Island where guests are encouraged to touch a bamboo or epaulette shark. “We hope that Shark Week helps people sort out shark fact from shark fiction. Hopefully our visitors will share this newly gained knowledge with others, and maybe enjoy their next trip to the beach without fear of getting in the water,” said George Bartnik, the Aquarium’s education programs manager.

In his later years, “Jaws” author Peter Benchley wrote another non-fiction book, “Shark Trouble” that he hoped would set the record straight about great white sharks. Before his death, he even expressed regret for the role his novel played in creating false impressions about great whites and sharks in general.

In 2001, Mr. Benchley told TIME Magazine, “I couldn't write 'Jaws' today. It used to be believed that great white sharks did target humans; now we know that, except in the rarest of instances, great white shark attacks are mistakes."

Environmental education can be fun and powerful. Here are a few fast facts about sharks:
-Sharks eat about two percent of their body weight per day – slightly less than humans.
-Great white sharks can go three months without eating.
-Sharks become immobile when upside down.
-An estimated 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year.
-Your odds of being killed by:
Falling down: 1 in 246
Tornado: 1 in 450,000
Lightning: 1 in 1.9 million
Falling plane parts: 1 in 10 million
Shark attack: 1 in 300 million


TVRM’s Historic Steam Locomotive #4501 Is Ready For Tennessee Valley Railfest

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) on Wednesday announced the return of its iconic Steam Locomotive 4501 to operation. TVRM has been restoring Locomotive 4501 over the past three  years and she will make her public debut at Tennessee Valley Railfest on Sept. 6 and 7.  The locomotive last ran in 1998 and has patiently waited for a complete overhaul.  ... (click for more)

Rock Out Labor Day And Beyond In Tennessee

 If there’s one place travelers can get a music smorgasbord, it’s Tennessee. In each corner of the state and areas in between, music rooted in bluegrass, rock, soul, country, and gospel can be heard from porches in small towns to concert stadiums in burgeoning cities. From the nation’s biggest Labor Day celebration in Knoxville to celebrating local and national talent in Nashville ... (click for more)

Bradley, 24, Charged In Death Of Boy, 3; Child Had Numerous Injuries After Left With Boyfriend; Mother Was In Workhouse

Justin Dale Bradley has been charged with criminal homicide in the death of a three-year-old child, who was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and later died. Police said Dakota James Arndt had numerous injuries over his body. Authorities said Bradley, 24, is the boyfriend of the child's mother, Brianna Kwekel, who was in the Workhouse at the time. Ms. Kwekel was serving 48 ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)