Location: Irvine, California
by Wayne and Karen Brown
We have been busy traveling across the country and speaking to schools about our underwater marine science expeditions. We met lots of great students and teachers and we look forward to seeing them again. If you are one of the students we met this year...Welcome! Come back to our expediton web site again as we search for the largest shark on the planet -- the Whale Shark!
During our school visits many students saw our program, The Australia Great White Shark Expedition. That 15-foot long great white shark we showed students was the largest shark we have ever seen. We are now getting ready to come face-to-face with the shark that makes the great white shark seem small!
The largest whale shark ever seen was about 60 feet long! That is longer than a school bus! The largest shark that ever lived is the Carcharodon Megalodon. This gigantic shark was about the size of a Greyhound bus and looked like a huge great white shark! Forntunately for us underwater explorers the Megalodon became extinct long ago!
We had a chance to check out some fossiled Megalodon jaws close-up when we visited the National Aquarium at Baltimore in April. Look at the photo and see how small Karen looks inside some Megalodon jaws! (My! What big teeth you have grandma!)
Even though a whale shark is close the the size of a Megalodon the whale shark is a lot skinnier than the Megalodon. The whale shark's mouth is smaller and its teeth are so small you could fit four or five on a penny! Unlike the Megalodon, the whale shark is not a meat-eater, it only eats plankton. It does not use its teeth to catch its food. It just stifts out plankton with its gills as it slowly swims through the ocean.
Even though we have been diving for over 38 years and made thousands of SCUBA dives all around the world, we have never seen a whale shark! On some of our underwater expeditions arournd the world we have come close to seeing whale sharks, though. (Read about one of our almost encounters with a whale shark during our 2001: A Innerspace Odyssey.)
To increase our chances of seeing a whale shark we have scheduled our expedition to occur their feedding migrations. We have learned that some whale sharks come to the coast of Belize to feed during fish spawning in June, during the time of the full moon. We have pinpointed their annual feeding migration to a location on the Belize barrier reef called Gladden Spit.
This year the best time to have a chance of finding the whale sharks in Belize will be between June 4 through June 18. We have scheduled our expedition during this time.
We will be staying in the small Belizean coastal village of Placencia. From there we will be taking boats out to Belize's barrier reef to seach for whale sherks.
An expedition requires lots of planning and preparation. Sometimes after doing all the planning and preparation something happens that you couldn't plan for. Unplanned events are part of the fun and frustration of expeditions. The weater and sea conditions change daily, and sometimes hourly. If the weather is bad and the sea is rough we may not be able to dive. Fortunately there are lots of things to see and do on land in Belize, so if the weather gets bad we may take a break to explore the tropical rainforests here.
Unfortunately new baggage restrictions may limit some of the equipment we were planning on taking with us. Of course, we will have our laptop computer, underwater camera equipment, and SCUBA equipment.
We look forward to sharing our adventure with you on our Ocean Adventure Online Expedition!
Best Fishes to all our Ocean Adventurers,
Wayne & Karen Brown