Friday, October 3, 2014
Climbing down the ladder, you step into chilly saltwater. A sand tiger shark swims below the ladder you are about to abandon. You hold on and wait until the animal moves past. Step off and dip below the surface. You shiver a little as the water hits the small of your back. Slowly you descend to the bottom. A green sea turtle glides to a stop right in front of you. You realize you are face-to- face with an endangered species. It checks you out, curious. Slowly, it swims away.
This could be a description of an extraordinary day of diving off the coast of North Carolina, yet it isn’t. In fact, this describes an ordinary day in the Cape Fear Shoals exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Staff and nearly 80 volunteer divers share similar experiences on a routine basis.
Diving at the Aquarium offers the opportunity to learn about sea life from within a safe, controlled environment. When a sand tiger shark swims by you, you marvel at its graceful motion. You are so close you can see its muscles active under its velvet gray skin. The green moray eel occasionally comes out from a crevice in the rock and glides past.
A look out the viewing windows into the Aquarium reveals the wonder on the faces of the visitors as they observe the animals and divers. You may think you would be self-conscious diving in front of a crowd of people. It isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Their excitement is evident. Divers help visitors make a personal connection with the sea life.
Visiting the underwater world sparks the imagination. It helps people personalize an underwater experience. It even makes some visitors realize they could have a similar experience. Some even become volunteer divers. You could be that next volunteer diver if only you start to imagine it.
Click here for more information about volunteer diving.