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


Rock City Donates To Emily's Power For A Cure From Fairytale Nights Proceeds

See Rock City (SRC), Inc. presented Emily’s Power for a Cure (EPFAC) with a $2,000 donation from their Fairytale Nights event, at Tucker’s Trek on Sunday.   "Our community partnerships are an important part of continuing the legacy of generosity that has lived through three generations of Rock City's ownership,” said SRC President Susan Harris. “We are proud to partner ... (click for more)

State Park Restaurants Celebrate Mother’s Day

The Mother’s Day Buffet will be available at these state park restaurants: Cumberland Mountain State Park         (931) 484-7186 David Crockett State Park                     (931) 762-9541 Fall Creek Falls State ... (click for more)

Dewayne Ray Burns Wanted After Firing Shots At Fort Oglethorpe Police Officers

Dewayne Ray Burns is wanted after police in North Georgia were led on a chase, and he fired shots at officers. Burns fired shots in their direction late Thursday night. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department are investigating the incident. According to park rangers on the scene, the Burns ran away, while firing shots in the direction ... (click for more)

5 Considered For Cleveland City Manager Position

Five names were selected  Friday  by a citizens advisory committee to send to the Cleveland City Council for consideration as the next Cleveland city manager. The five are Angie Carrier, Joe Fivas, Mark Reeter, Seth Sumner and Julie Underwood. The list is being sent in alphabetical order so no one has an advantage when the city council considers the candidates. ... (click for more)

Jill Levine Is An Educational Rock Star

No one has covered the Hamilton County Department of Education drama better than Roy Exum.  Thank you, Roy, but I take issue with your unnamed sources.  Professional jealousy and sour grape darts should not be anonymous.   HCDE is so dysfunctional, and there is good cause to place this public organization under a microscope, dissect it into pieces and discard all ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Cancer Is Not A Battle

I read a marvelous essay not long ago where the author urged, “Stop telling the lie that cancer is a battle … a battle implies a fair fight, and there was nothing fair about my cancer or the cancer that took the life of my friend. Those experiences were about as fair as getting hit by a car – and nobody says people lose their battles with automobiles.” Mary Elizabeth Williams, ... (click for more)