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December 2021

This fall, a team from Georgia Aquarium and the North Carolina Aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island ventured offshore for three days of diving to help collect data for Spot A Shark USA.

Captain Jerry Smith of Olympus Dive Center in Morehead City took the group diving on several wrecks: the Aeolus, a 409-foot ship sunk in 1988 as part of the state’s artificial reef program; the USS Schurz, a 255-foot

German gunship, built in 1894 and sunk in 1918; the Papoose, a 412-foot tanker torpedoed by the U-124 in 1942; and the U-352, a German sub sunk by the Coast Guard in 1942.

The diving was exciting, but it was more than just recreational. While under the waves, the team, which included underwater photographer Tanya Houppermans and Florida International University

professor Yannis Papastamatiou, photographed sand tiger sharks, the largest of the shipwrecks’ visitors, to add to the Spot A Shark USA database.

Once back on shore, images were uploaded and scientists began mapping out the unique spot patterns visible along the sides of the photographed sharks. Because these patterns are as unique as fingerprints, they can be used to distinguish individual animals.

Identifying specific sand tigers helps track their movement and behavior, and reveals which habitats the sharks use during their lives. The information is used by Spot A Shark USA researchers and their international partners. The photographs that the dive team took added many new sand tigers to the database and will aid in the conservation of these animals.

You can help too! North Carolina offers many opportunities for diving. Divers, snorkelers, and others can photograph encounters with sand tiger sharks and post their images to the Spot A Shark USA website.

Holiday magic comes to NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Dec. 11, during Santa by the Sea. Includes crafts, activities, games, sweet treats and a photo opportunity with Santa himself. Register online.

The NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island’s Santa Paws drive will collect pet food for the Outer Banks SPCA, Dec. 1-31. The program offers one free ticket per reservation when a guest brings three pet items or a pet food item from the SPCA’s wish list.

Enjoy some holiday sparkle during Festival of Trees at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, till Jan. 3. Festival sponsorships benefit the mission of Lower Cape Fear LifeCare.

All three aquariums offer Holiday Camps to keep young explorers active and learning during winter break, with outdoor activities, animal encounters, discovery labs and behind-the-scenes tours.

Sellouts happen, especially during the holidays! Purchase your ticket or make member reservations in advance, online. 

The aquariums will be closed on Christmas Day. But all three aquariums and their on-site gift shops will be open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1. Can’t make it to the Aquariums but want a gift for a loved one? Visit the online Gift Shop.


YOUR PICTURE could be featured in our monthly SEAmail. Just share a photo of you with an item from our online Gift Shop and tag us @NCAquariumPKS! A winning photo will be chosen each month to showcase in SEAmail.


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