Andy Fox swims with the sharks

ROANOKE ISLAND, N.C. (WAVY) — In 80 years of keeping records never have there been more shark bites in a season than this one along the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

As part of his in-depth investigation into this year’s attacks, 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox headed into a shark tank to see the magnificent creatures up close.

Part 1: Shark Facts vs. Fiction

He went to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo on Roanoke Island. 300,000 visitors come to the aquarium every year to see North Carolina’s largest collection of sharks.

Before diving in, Dive Safety Officer Jason Sheremeta briefed Andy on what to expect. “If we have an emergency I’m going to go like this,” says Sheremeta as he does a slashing sign on his forearm.  “If I do that it means we are going up.”

The aquarium is 17-feet deep, and is the size of a baseball infield. 619024-swimming-with-the-sharks-d51b6

Sheremeta instructed Andy not to touch the sharks, and not to put his arms straight out.  Sharks are spooked by vibrations, sudden movement and blood. “We are basically visiting their environment.  We are swimming in their ocean, and just like here, we are bringing people in here to enjoy their company,” Sheremeta explained.

It’s hard believing such a magnificent creature creates such panic and fear as soon as he opens his mouth.

Hailey Hiott was visiting the aquarium with two of her friends, “I feel like they have the urge to eat us like yummy humans, yea.”

WAVY Photographer Rob Rizzo was outside the tank recording Andy’s dive. Rizzo asked the family, “What do you think about this guy in here?  Do you think he’s ok?”   Hiott responded, “He is probably scared out of his mind, I would be freaking out.”

Experts say always stay calm. Don’t make sudden movements. Maintain your position in a quiet manner.

Andy said he found it unnerving in the beginning, but then began to relax.

Photos: Swimming with the sharks 

Most sharks are merely curious and will leave on their own.  That is the case at the aquarium. Sheremeta said the sharks rarely feed on the other fish. “We keep them very well fed here, and we feed them three times a week.  They eat more than they would out in the wild, and they really have great health care.  Their health care is probably better than my own.  I wish I had as great health care as they did,” Sheremeta said with a laugh.

Andy spent 45 minutes swimming with the sharks and calls it one of the most memorable experiences of his life.

When they emerged from the water, Sheremeta told Andy, “You were probably more scared of the sharks than they were of you.”

Out in the wild, in the real world, it is a different story. There have been eight shark attacks along the North Carolina coast since June 11.

The Florida Museum of Natural History has the longest running database on shark attacks, which you can access here.

And if you are interested in swimming with the sharks, just like Andy did, you can. Click here to find out more about how to arrange a dive experience.


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