The old bait house in Island Bay is home to a wonderful little ‘Marine Education Centre‘ that provides the children of Wellington the opportunity to get hands on with the creatures that live along the South Coast. On Sunday we popped in to give Alice and Sophie an opportunity to say hello to the rocky shore creatures in the touch pools (both girls are completed unfazed and will handle anything). On Sunday they handled a ‘snake star-fish‘ (also known as a brittle or spider star), a ‘cushion star fish‘ and a hermit crab.
They ended up seeing more than they expected, when a ‘Carpet shark’ was returned to the wild, after having enjoyed some recuperation time at the centre (local fisherman had found him caught in a cray pot – he was lucky to be handed over to the marine centre and not turned into bait!).
Carpet shark are all around New Zealand, but most commonly in the south, where it comes into shallow bays. They grow to an average size of 80-120cm and reach a maximum of 200cm. They are voracious feeders, preying on shellfish, crustaceans, fishes and squid.
They are also called ‘swell sharks’, because when alarmed they can ‘swallow’ either water or air, depending on their situation, in order to make themselves appear larger.
We didn’t know this little gem of information until we got home and read up about them – we simply thought the shark was nodding ‘goodbye’ (Alice thought this was very entertaining – and kept waving, ‘Goodbye’, saying, ‘Funny shark! Go home!’. The shark finally gave up trying to inflate itself (didn’t do a very impressive job anyway) and ducked its head under the water to swim away.