Breathtaking events to celebrate Shark Week around Hampton Roads – The Virginian-Pilot

Hampton Roads isn’t the star of the Discovery Channel’s 34th year of Shark Week programming, but the high-profile annual TV event is sparking interest in the sharks that inhabit local waters.

Although rip currents and jellyfish stings pose a much more likely threat to humans than ocean apex predators, sharks frequent the region’s waters, according to Skylar Snowden, senior curator of fish, invertebrates , herpetology and dive operations at the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia. Beach.

The most common species off the Hampton Roads coast include sand tiger sharks and gray sharks, also called brown sharks, Snowden said. Other types of sharks, including great white sharks, sometimes jump away from shore while migrating along the coast.

OCEARCH, which tags and tracks sharks, maintains a live map of shark locations around the world. In May, a young 7-foot great white named Martha pinged the map as it sailed parallel to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel en route to New England. Off the Outer Banks, others have reported close encounters with sharks while spearfishing.

But your chances of interacting with a shark are incredibly rare in Hampton Roads. The International Shark Attack File compiled by the Florida Museum of Natural History shows that there have only been five shark attacks reported in Virginia since 1837. The state’s only fatal attack occurred in the area of Sandbridge in Virginia Beach in September 2001. A 10-year-old boy was standing in 4 feet of water when a shark bit his leg, killing him.

If the scarcity of attacks isn’t enough to allay fears at the beach, Snowden assured that humans are never sharks’ favorite meal.

“If we were really on the menu, we would never go in the water, ever,” Snowden said. “Because sharks are everywhere.”

Want to learn more about sharks? A handful of events this week in Hampton Roads and beyond are themed.

  • The Norfolk Nauticus hosts a daily Shark Lab in which visitors can learn about local sharks in the area.
  • The Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach is upgrading its shark education offerings to celebrate Shark Week. Aquarium educators will give themed presentations Sunday through Thursday at the Norfolk Canyon exhibit, which is home to sandbar, sand tiger and nurse shark species. Presentations are scheduled daily between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with a variety of topics. Visitors who want more can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Norfolk Canyon exhibit for an additional $30 for non-members and $25 for aquarium members.
  • A Shark Week-branded blimp that cruises the coastline will return to Virginia beaches on Thursday. The 128-foot-long, 44-foot-tall airship has already passed through Hampton Roads on July 4.
  • The Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond is dedicating the week to shark programming. A lineup of events, including film screenings and a spiny dogfish dissection, can be viewed on the museum’s website.
  • The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island takes visitors behind the scenes daily at the 285,800 gallon “Graveyard of the Atlantic” exhibit. Visitors can view sharks above the exhibit for $16 in addition to regular admission fees.

Ali Sullivan, 757-677-1974, [email protected]

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