National Aquarium Bringing Back Shark Day

Posted August 1, 2008 at 4:06pm

Just a glimpse of a fin will send even the bravest swimmers racing toward the shore, especially if they have seen “Jaws.”

But according to Jay Bradley, the general curator of the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C., sharks are not as bloodthirsty as we think. And in order to dispel the myths surrounding sharks, the National Aquarium will host Shark Day on Saturday.

“They are not these mindless eating machines,” Bradley said. “Generally, they are very wary of people and are not inclined to interact with you in most cases.”

An annual tradition since 1990, Shark Day provides hands-on activities for visitors of all ages and attracts up to 2,000 people each year.

Throughout the day, visitors will have the opportunity to examine the aquarium’s shark tooth fossil collection, participate in a fossil hunt, make shark puppets out of paper bags and get their faces painted.

Visitors will also learn about the Japanese art of gyotaku, in which fishermen rub ink on the fish they catch and make imprints on rice paper to record their catches. The aquarium will provide fabric paint, T-shirts and rubber molds of fish and other animals so kids can make their own gyotaku prints.

In addition, Bradley will lead two shark dissections, at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., to highlight shark reproductive strategies and explain why the fish are so susceptible to over-fishing. Although there may be some odor during the dissection, Bradley says the sharks are treated with a fixative so no blood will be involved.

Visitors can also experience a shark feeding at 2 p.m. while Tim Bradley, the author and illustrator of “Paleo Sharks: Survival of the Strangest,” will sign books from 9 a.m. to noon.

Finally, a touch cart will be available all day with examples of jaws from lemon and Port Jackson sharks, cartilage, fins, and teeth from great white sharks and the prehistoric giant shark megaladon.

The National Aquarium is inside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building on 14th Street Northwest between Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues. The aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last admission at 4:30 p.m. General admission is $7, which includes all Shark Day activities.

For more information, call 202-482-2825 or e-mail