When they get to the aquarium, the kid asks if they have a Great White shark exhibit.
The volunteer says no, we don’t.
The kid asks, “Why? are you afraid he might try to eat people?”
The volunteer chuckles at this and tells him no. no aquarium has successfully held a Great White shark live for more than a few days.
You see, in order to stay alive, Great Whites and other sharks, like hammerheads, swim on their own continuously through the ocean, never stopping, never slowing, tramping a perpetual journey with many miles to go before they finally reach “sleep”. If they stop, the oxygen rich water around them no longer flows over their gills and into their bodies and they suffocate from the strain of being at rest. So they keep going, like lost children searching for their parents in a very large amusement park.
This need to keep moving, this need for space, has made it extremely difficult to keep them in our meager glass human death cages. When the Monterey bay aquarium managed to capture a juvenile that didn’t thrash itself to death like the adult sharks they netted before, it bashed its head against the tank’s sturdy walls until the shock of being dragged out of its home and put in the equivalent of a coffin killed it.
But, the volunteer continued cheerfully, we have other kinds of sharks here. We have zebra sharks, which don’t need to swim nonstop. In their natural habitat, they just lie on the ocean floor all day. The kid agrees to go see them
The zebra sharks are not lying on the floor nor do they look like zebras. They swim slowly past him, leopard spots dotting their ridges on their backs, their fins, their long tails. “They’re called zebra sharks because of the zebra like patterns of the juveniles,” the volunteer explains. The ones we have here are adults.When they become adults, they get the spots and those ridges you see. Sometimes people mistake them for leopard sharks, which are a totally different species.”
The kid stares at the zebra sharks for a full ten minutes, looking for a sign of resignation at being called something they weren’t anymore, at collectively being referred to by a childhood nickname they had long outgrown. They did not seem to care.
He gets bored and goes to other exhibits, the split fin flashlight fish blinking on and off in their darkened tank, the touch pool, the medusa jellyfish with their trailing tentacles. But the sharks are what he remembers when he leaves, and they’re what he remember when he returns three months later, six months later, two years later, three, five, ten, this is what stays with him, the sharks in our tanks and the sharks in the ocean.
This was for school