GeekDad Visits the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy on Cape Cod

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My family and I just returned from our every-three-years (triennial?) trip to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. Every year it gets a little easier in some ways—my kids are teenagers now and able to go off exploring on their own—but also a little tougher. Especially in terms of cost (no more kid meal discounts), vehicle space, and trying to schedule everyone so they can keep a few weeks free.

Several visits back (2012), I wrote a post about the expanding grey seal colonies off the Cape and the resulting re-appearance of great white sharks. The situation has continued to develop since then. There were multiple sightings of great whites when we were there, and just after we got back to Canada, there were reports that after several close calls where sharks had attacked seals just off busy Nauset beach and bitten a paddle board, a local politician was calling for a cull of the creatures.

That plan was immediately criticized on Twitter by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

Which brings me around to something we did on this trip that we haven’t in the past. Spurred by an interest in learning more about the sharks, we drove from Provincetown to Chatham, home of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

It’s not a huge facility (most people will probably go through it in 15 to 20 minutes), but it’s very interesting. Tickets are a reasonable $5 per person, kids under 5 are free.

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy
Doing this is just inviting a shark attack… Photo by Brad Moon.

On arriving, my twins did what I assume every 14-year-old does and stuck their heads in the giant model white shark head mounted to the wall of the exhibit room. There are plenty of infographics on sharks and their life cycle, along with multimedia presentations showing how the researchers spot sharks from planes, then tag them from a boat for tracking. There’s a a live count of shark sightings, as well as stats on total and new taggings.

Naturally, safety is also covered. I’m firmly in the “stay the heck out of the ocean, especially when there are sharks and seals known to be in the area” camp, but with common sense, you don’t have to be quite so restrictive to stay safe.

The Conservancy also has a room with a virtual reality setup that simulates a dive with sharks, something the boys were all over. Our kids were too old for it, but I noticed there were teenagers leading groups of young kids outside in shark-themed discovery areas, including a water tank with what appeared to be small sharks in it.

Overall, it was worth the visit, if you’re in the area. Naturally, there’s a gift shop but there was no there’s no candy or similar junk, and proceeds help to support the operations and research of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. Something that seems more important now than ever. If you want to help out the organization in its research and battle to prevent a knee-jerk reaction from leading to a shark cull, you can also buy gear like hats, shirts, and jewelry online.

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy
My new favorite cap. You can buy it online and help out the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. Photo by Brad Moon.

And if you want to keep track of daily white shark sightings around Cape Cod, download the Sharktivity app. It provides a real-time map of sightings, including shark ID (if a known shark is identified) and photos when available.

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