22 March 2005

10-year-old sets record as youngest to dive in city shark tank

The four ragged-tooth sharks at the Two Oceans Aquarium are usually fed at 3.30pm every Sunday, so 10-year-old Julian Ratcliffe picked a good day yesterday to set a record as the youngest person to dive in the aquarium's I&J predatory exhibit.

Ratcliffe qualified as a scuba diver at his uncle's diving school in Indonesia in December, but conceded that he was nervous about being so close to sharks.

As he entered the aquarium his aunt, Cary Yanny, a scuba diving instructor who accompanied him, asked him to say goodbye to his parents "just in case".

Julian became quiet but aquarium diver Dale Morris told the Cape Times that he would join Julian and Yanny on the dive so that he could "keep an eye out".

"How many people have been killed in here?" Julian asked Morris.

But, once he was inside the tank, Ratcliffe appeared calm and waved at his family and friends watching him through the glass.

And, although he seemed to have forgotten about the four mean-looking predators swimming above him, his focus was on the shark teeth that had fallen onto the floor of the shark tank.

As she watched him enter the water, the boy's mother, Hanan Yanny, said scuba diving had made her son more environmentally conscious.

"He's very lucky to be able to scuba dive because you get to see things that you don't get to see on land," she said.

Inside the tank, Julian played with a turtle and a stingray while children visiting the aquarium stared in amazement.

Julian waved to his friends and family and signalled that he was all right.

When he got out of the tank, Ratcliffe told the Cape Times he was proud of himself and that he was no longer scared of the sharks.

"It felt like they were just centimetres away," he said.

Julian managed to pick up two shark's teeth and said he would use them to make pendants.

Would he be prepared to do the dive again?

"Of course," Julian said.


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