I come walking
out of a back room at Boston's New England Aquarium, dressed like a frogman,
and sit down on the tiny dock above the Giant Ocean Tank, the world's largest
glass aquarium. My two diving partners, aquarium staff members Bob Griffin
(right) and Toni Pollack, are already in the water. I put in my legs. The water
is 76�, a median temperature acceptable to the large ocean animals from Cape
Cod to Key West with which the tank is stocked.
is rising. "They'll be curious about somebody new coming in," Griffin
had said. "The turtles are interested in air bubbles. The sharks will sense
your vibrations, and smell you. As they approach, they actually will be tasting
you to see if you're good to eat."
continues to rise. Remain calm. Know hysteria, and assimilate it. "Sharks
are keenly aware of erratic behavior," Griffin had said.
I look at my
foot. An Atlantic green sea turtle the size of a water bed is homing in on it.
Ah, yes. I glance at the schoolchildren peering over the railing, watching the
divers. Pollack grabs the 500-pound turtle by its shell, perhaps a fin length
from my foot, and steers it slowly downward like a mover edging a piano into
the parlor. "That was Myrtle," she says coming up. "She's
I am in a little
deeper now, up to my chest, my mask and oxygen regulator in place. I can feel
the gentle current from right to left. Forms drift past counterclockwise,
against the flow. "Aerodynamically, it's easier for most fish to swim into
a current," Griffin had explained. "Watch out for the traffic when you
get down there."
My head goes
under and suddenly pops out. "A lot of divers get claustrophobia when they
start in," Roz Ridgway, the public relations woman, had said.
"Unnatural density," was the way Curator Lou Garibaldi put it.
I feel as though
I have just viewed a caldron of slowly stirred sea monsters. Beneath me five-
and six-foot sharks circle alongside giant turtles, tarpon and barracuda. On
the bottom are things that resemble boulders, 400-pound jewfish. There are more
than 250 animals in the 23-foot-deep, 40-foot-wide, 200,000-gallon circular
How can a sane
person descend into such company? "Well," said Toni Pollack, in the
kind of inverted logic that seemed so reasonable on land, "the turtles are
probably more dangerous than the sharks."
Now as we sink
past the fiber-glass reef that fills the center of the tank, its grottoed and
tunneled form pulsing with marine life that one wouldn't mind seeing mounted on
walls, it is necessary to remind oneself that there is a purpose in this
dive—the animals must be fed.
feeding all the sharks from the top," said Lou Garibaldi, "but only the
browns would come up. We thought if the sand tigers and nurse sharks got hungry
enough, they'd surface feed, too. Instead, when we opened up one morning, quite
a number of the fish in the tank were gone. And, of course, if we just dumped
food in and let it go at that, there'd be total chaos." Now the browns are
fed at one time, the turtles at another and the remaining fish immediately