17 November 2010

Partially sighted diver spends time with Aquarium sharks

Bob Shepherd

On Sunday, 14 November, for the first time at the Two Oceans Aquarium, a partially sighted diver spent time underwater with our ragged-tooth sharks. Aquarium Floor Manager Bob Shepherd interviewed Mareike Muldees after her adventure dive in the I&J Predator Exhibit.

Mareike Muldees, who is on her first visit to South Africa from Holland, is partially sighted: she has just 5% sight in one eye. However, this has not stopped her from doing what she loves – diving!

Mareike started diving in 2006 when on a holiday tour with friends in Borneo. Instead of staying in the hotel room waiting for her friends to return from their dive, she decided to join them and learn what she could about diving. She was taught the basics and soon furthered her training in Indonesia.

Mareike learnt the various hand signals to communicate with other divers and identify fish. She’s since made up her own hand signals for fish, different to those other divers learn, as she needs physical contact in order to communicate.

Mareike’s dive in the I&J Predator Exhibit went off without a hitch. Matthew Henstock, our resident dive master, assisted her into the display and then, holding her hands and arms, led her in an underwater dance among the shoals of shimmering fish.

Mareike can distinguish between light and dark and make out certain shapes. She could see the sand at the bottom of the display and the shadows and shapes of the rays as they swam past. The yellow colouration on the sides of the yellowtail allowed her to see these remarkable fish.

An exhilarated Mareike declared that she thoroughly enjoyed her first visit and would definitely visit again to complete another dive at the Aquarium.

Here are some hand signals for identifying fish, adapted from ScubaBoard.com. These signals are not standardised but give a good impression of the kind of creative underwater thinking that divers use.

Turtle: Put each hand flat, one on top of the other, and circle your thumbs.
Shark: Put your hand in front of your forehead, as if you want to cut your scalp in two.
Moray eel: Forming a mouth with your thumb and fingers (like you would when playing with a sock puppet).
Manta ray: Extend your left and right arms, like you are flying.
Sunfish: Point your little finger downwards and your thumb upwards, your other fingers bent.

Below is a short video of the event.

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