Greenwich’s Tina Pray is Fearless in the Shark Tank at the Maritime Aquarium

massive shark

Massive shark suspended over the stingray tank at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Nov. 28, 2015

Four years ago, Tina Pray gave scuba diving a try while on vacation with her boyfriend Joe Lockbridge. She was immediately hooked. She and Joe found they could enjoy diving without going on vacation when they joined the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk dive team. In fact, they volunteer to dive into the shark tank on a regular basis.

On the other side of the tank walls, aquarium patrons had a chance to  learn about sharks and how they are misunderstood creatures. “The purpose of the shark dive is to educate, inspire, entertain and inform people about the importance of sharks in Long Island Sound their place in the ocean ecology,” said Charlie Adams, who lives in Greenwich and volunteers at the Aquarium. “We also want to dispel myths about sharks being man eaters and killers.”

dive team and volunteers at Norwalk Aquarium

Dive team and volunteers at the maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, left to right: Connie Wing, BrianNoyes, Tina Pray, Charlie Adams Joe Lockridge, and (front) Randy Carford, Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

And while sharks aren’t the menacing creatures portrayed in the movie Jaws, Tina explained the meaning of a tickle stick. The extended T-shaped pole is handy just in case there’s a need to give a shark a little push, though none of the dive team could recall ever having to use one.

In fact, they agreed it is the Trigger Fish that has the potential for a nibble or a bite.

“Sharks are attracted to bright colors – red and orange especially,” Tina explained, noting that Saturday was the first day in a year since the sharks last saw Santa in a red dive suit.

At about noon, dozens of families, mostly with young children, squeezed onto the carpet outside the shark tank in anticipation of a surprise visitor.

Charlie Adams encouraged the children to look up at the top of the tank where they saw Santa lower herself into the submerged platform and wait for the sharks to circle to the opposite side of the tank.

entering the tank

Tina Pray, aka Santa Claus, enters the shark tank onto a platform where she waits until the sharks circle to the opposite side before diving below and to the window to greet aquarium guests. Credit: Leslie Yager

When the area by the platform and the viewing window below were clear of sharks, Pray dove to the bottom of the tank where children screamed with delight. Cameras and phones clicked and flashed, and everyone took turns posing with Santa on the other side of the glass.

It was fitting that Tina’s children, Parker (17) and Natasha (20), had their photo taken with Santa. They became interested in ocean ecology and Long Island Sound when they were little and visited the Aquarium with their mom.

The Maritime Aquarium is located at 10 N. Water Street in Norwalk. Find them on Facebook or follow on Twitter @MaritimeAqua

The aquarium’s Shark-diving Santa will appear on most Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays in December. Click for details.

Tina Pray as Santa

Dozens of children took turns having their photos taken with Santa and the sharks at the Maritime Aquarium, Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

Tina and the sharks

Tina Pray, in her Santa wet suit makes her way to the side of the shark tank to wave hello to the families who turned out for the attraction at the Norwalk Aquarium, Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

Tina Pray

Amid the sharks, Tina Pray lowers herself to the bottom of the tank to greet families on the other side of the glass, Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

fist bump

Tina’s daughter Natasha, home for Thanksgiving from University of Tampa, gives her mom a fist bump, Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

sharks

Tina’s children, Parker and Natasha, got a kick out of seeing their mom dressed as Santa and swimming with the sharks. “If I can raise teenagers, I’m not afraid of any sharks,” Tina joked. Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

TIna, Parker andNatasha

Parker and Natasha Grayson stop to visit their mother Tina Pray. In the background Joe Lockridge keeps an eye out in his role as the safety diver. Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

 

Tina Pray

Tina Pray dives as Santa at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

Tina Pray

Tina Pray dives as Santa at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

In other areas of the Maritime Aquarium, guests had a chance to touch and hold crabs and check out the entries in the annual Lighthouse competition.

aquarium, seals

No visit to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk is complete without a salute to the seals. Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

Penguin Party

The “Penguin Party” by Margaret Phillips of Cos Cob is an entry in the annual Lighthouse competition at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

penguin party

The “Penguin Party” by Margaret Phillips of Cos Cob is an entry in the annual Lighthouse competition at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

touching crabs

Guests at the Maritime Aquarium had a chance to touch and hold crabs, Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

aquarium miniature

One lighthouse was a miniature of the aquarium itself. Nov. 28, 2015. Credit: Leslie Yager

See also:

Cos Cob Woman Featured in Norwalk Aquarium Lighthouse Contest


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