SHARKS: AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL

OUR TOWN
SHARKS: AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL
The sighting of a great white shark off Chatham in 2009 created
traffic jams down Shore Road to Lighthouse Beach. Police officers
directed traffic, while visitors by the busload came to see the
sharks. “It really was a boom for the town,” says Lisa Franz,
executive director of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce.
The sightings of these unexpected visitors inspired shark expert Dr.
Greg Skomal and Franz to “get the ball rolling” for a center to
educate both visitors and residents. They scouted locations,
organized focus groups and met with the Cape Cod Commercial
Fishermen’s Alliance and the Provincetown Center for Coastal
Studies, among other groups. They were determined to make this
idea work.
Several years and countless meetings later, the dream of a bricksand-mortar center has finally come to life. Slated to open Memorial
Day weekend, the nonprofit shark center on Orleans Road features a
large display titled “The Amazing Great White Shark: Chatham’s
Frequent Visitor,” which details the anatomy of a great white shark,
fun facts you can flip open, and interactive touch screens that
explain tagging and tracking. A nearby monitor plays videos of the
tagging of the 14-foot female, Katharine, by OCEARCH in 2013.
Once it’s complete, the center will be filled with several displays,
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CHATHAM MAGAZINE
including a virtual shark cage that creates the sensation of being in
the water with sharks; a photo op which allows a visitor to have
their photo taken inside the jaws of a great white shark; and a kids’
play area.
“Our objective is really education and awareness of everything
marine-related that is going on in ‘the
elbow,’” says Ferraresi. “Sharks are a
big part of that.”
The center has reached a quarter of
its $250,000 goal and hopes to be at
the halfway point by the summer
through grass-roots fundraising and
special events. “We are trying to
attract larger sponsors. Maybe one
of them will want to sponsor an exhibit like the shark
cage,” says Ferraresi.
Franz says shark center adviser Dr. Skomal has already committed
to a handful of speaking engagements, and the plan is to host
school field trips, collaborate with Cape Cod Community College,
and focus on STEM programming.
“The whole concept is to start small and get it right,” says board
member Franz, “and then move on and expand.” —Lisa Connors
The Chatham Shark Center is located at 235 Orleans Road, North
Chatham. To donate or volunteer, email [email protected]
com. For more information, visit www.chathamsharkcenter.org.
chathammag.com
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“We see firsthand people migrating down Main Street to the
lighthouse and they ask us all the time, ‘How do we get to the
lighthouse (to see the sharks)?’ ” says Dave Ferraresi, a board
member of the new Chatham Shark Center. “Wouldn’t it be great
to tell those people where they can learn more about what is going
on out there?”