Sharks and whales and manatees—oh my! For a kid fascinated by marine life, there’s nothing more exciting than interacting with a finned friend in its natural habitat. Got a water baby in your family? Here are four encounters that let you get up-close and personal with some not-so-scary sea creatures.
Nothing sends ocean swimmers fleeing for shore faster than a fin sighting. The word shark alone is enough to scare most people, immediately calling to mind the menacing theme song for the movie "Jaws"—and, of course, all the gruesome attack scenes therein. But some people look past the sensationalism and all those razor-sharp teeth (up to 15 rows of them) to see sharks for what they really are—streamlined, beautiful animals that are fantastically adapted to their environment. (There’s a reason they’ve been around for 64 million years.) For those brave souls, the thrill of floating alongside these big fish far outweighs the fright. And in truth, many sharks pose a bigger threat to plankton than to surfers or other fish—though swimming alongside them still lends plenty of bragging rights. In order to do it, you’ll need a boat (in most cases, anyway) and local knowledge to find the fish. The surest bet is to hire a local guide service or naturalist who can take you out, outfit you with snorkels or dive gear, and—perhaps most important—let you know how close is too close. We scoured the globe to come up with some great guide services that offer you a glimpse inside the watery world of the oceans’ most-feared fish. They’ll take you on daylong dive and snorkeling charters, set you up on a live-aboard yacht for extended, all-inclusive trips, and even load you into a deep-sea submersible to get a Cousteau-style look at some seriously creepy (and rare) creatures. That underscores another fascinating fact about sharks—more than the much-maligned Great White, there are 470 species of sharks prowling the world's oceans. There are bus-sized, plankton-eating whale sharks that you can snorkel up to and touch; little lemon sharks that you can lift out of the water (literally, but we don't recommend it…their "nibbles" can cause serious injury); streamlined makos that blast through the water at upwards of 25 mph; bottom-dwelling nurse sharks who are sort of like catfish of the sea; and, yes, 5,000-pound apex predators called Great Whites. It’s up to you what shark you want to see, and how close you want to get. Some you can reach out and touch, others are best kept on the other side of a thick steel cage. With that in mind, here are the best places in the world to get nose-to-snout with sharks.
Stephen Hawking's doctoral thesis is now available to the public. As soon as the University of Cambridge put the scientist’s 1996 PhD thesis, "Properties of Expanding Universes," on its open access repository, the website crashed. A spokesperson for Cambridge said it had almost 60,000 downloads in less than 24 hours.