Publié le March 28, 2019

Diving with sharks! For some people it’s a dream, for others it’s a nightmare. At Nausicaá, handler-divers get up close to sharks every day.

The sand tiger sharks in the open sea tank in the Mankind and Shores exhibition, the sandbar sharks in the high seas tank in the Journey on the High Seas exhibition, the zebra sharks in the tropical lagoon and the leopard sharks in the kelp forest receive regular visits from the team of handlers who go on dives.

 

DIVING IN THE HIGH SEAS

Imagine diving into a tank with a capacity of 10,000 m3, which is equal to the combined volume of 4 Olympic-sized swimming pools! And above all, imagine how it would feel to dive in the high seas among the creatures that are found around the island of Malpelo. This is what daily life is like for the 8 handlers in the Ocean team who dive into the tank.

You can watch the divers in action in the tank, they will show you its hidden recesses. An activity leader acts as a link between visitors and the divers. And there you are, you are now part of this underwater exploration.

 

WORKING UNDER WATER

Once they are under the water, the divers have a list of tasks to complete: cleaning the glass panels – it takes time to clean 100 m² of glass panels, observing the creatures in the tank, or planting coral on the walls, which recreate the drop-offs around the island of Malpelo.

An underwater scooter enables them to move around quickly and effortlessly in the 60-metre-long and 35-metre-wide tank.

 

DIVING IN THE OPEN SEA AND THE TROPICAL LAGOON

The handlers also dive in the Open Sea tank. The tank is 6 metres deep. In this space, the divers clean the glass panels, check the agitators – turbines that circulate the water in the tank, and check and maintain the drains that allow water to flow out so that it can be filtered.

Each dive, which lasts around 30 minutes, gives them a chance to visually check that the creatures are in good health. The divers emerge from the tank after picking up the teeth that the sharks regularly lose.

Then the divers go into the tropical lagoon, where they perform various inspection and maintenance tasks, paying particular attention to the maintenance of colonies of reef-building corals.

 

REGULATIONS AND CODE OF GOOD CONDUCT

As the regulations require for any dive in a fish tank, one member of the team of divers stays at the surface and keeps watch over the others. This monitoring guarantees the highest possible level of safety. The diver at the surface is also there to assist his/her colleagues and give them the tools they need for the various tasks to be performed.

In the Open Sea tank, the divers pay attention to the sharks’ behaviour at all times. The aim is not to get in their way, not to scare them and not to come into contact with them. A code of mutual good conduct has become established over the years between the sharks and their handlers, and they all respect each other in a completely calm atmosphere. The divers do not forget that they are guests in the sharks’ world.

While diving in the tropical lagoon, the divers take an environmentally-friendly approach inspired by the Responsible Divers’ Charter, including by kicking gently so that they do not hit the coral that surrounds them.

 

QUALIFIED HANDLER-DIVERS

To be able to do their job, Nausicaá’s divers have all obtained a professional diving qualification (“class O” or “class 1” awarded by the National Professional Diving Institute in Marseille). Nausicaá currently has 25 divers, from the manager to the handlers, who are able to work in the fish tanks.

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