SHARKS have been spotted by care home residents in the seaside town of Saltburn – but not swimming in the North Sea.
The aquatic apex predators have been the focus of a week of activities at Hazelgrove Court Care Home, on Randolph Street.
Inspired by the Discovery Channel’s 32nd annual Shark Week, residents have been watching real sharks on webcam live streams, taken a virtual ride on a Jaws theme park ride, and enjoyed a range of Shark themed games.
Residents have also been telling stories about their personal close encounters with sharks – including great whites and hammerheads.
Michael Sellers, 75, was captain of a tanker for 25 years, from 1976 to 2001, when he came face-to-face with the ocean’s most infamous shark species.
He said: “I was in Australia. After being in port, we took a little launch back to the ship when a great white bumped us as it swam under the boat. Needless to say, I was relieved to get onto the bigger ship.”
Fellow resident Mike Oddy, 55, recalled a shark spotting trip in Tenerife, Graham Bates, 80, remembered seeing several sharks when in Africa, and Jean Caley, 75, went on a shark spotting trip in the Caribbean.
She said: “I was told off for screaming when the hammerhead sharks came up to the side of the boat.”
Bill Hewitson, 90, bit off more than he could stomach during his own encounter with a shark. He said: “I have tasted shark when I was on holiday many years ago but I didn’t like it.”
Residents got talking about their shark experiences after taking a virtual trip to the USA via the care home’s tablet computers.
Using explore.org, residents visited the Frying Pan Tower, a decommissioned lighthouse 34 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, which has several underwater cameras streaming live video online of the surrounding wildlife.
They also clicked onto the Aquarium of the Pacific webcam, located on Rainbow Harbour in Long Beach, California, as well as took a virtual ride on the now decommissioned Jaws ride at Universal Studios, in Florida.
Throughout Shark Week, residents also played games including Hook a Shark and Pass the Shark Parcel. A shark puppet bubble machine visited residents in their rooms, and residents made shark bookmarks during an arts and crafts session.
Residents Joyce Baxtrum, 89, and Sybil Boothby, 85, came up with the idea of requesting donations of up to £1 for the bookmarks, with all proceeds to go to the Marine Conservation Society’s Save our Sharks campaign.
Sharon Lewis, activities coordinator at Hazelgrove Court Care Home, said: “All our residents have certainly got a love of sharks this week but no one wants to swim with them.
“It was fascinating to hear them reminiscing about past holidays and sharing their shark spotting stories with each other.
“The different web cams have also been a revelation for both me and the residents, as have the rollercoaster and fun fair rides. The residents absolutely love them.
“They said they did not expect to be going to America when they got up this morning but they spent over an hour watching the webcams and taking virtual rides. They really got to immerse themselves.
“I’ve been on the actual Jaws ride in Universal Studios and the virtual one was very good. Residents screamed when the shark came towards them, even though they knew it was only on the screen.
“I’m sure we’ll be doing more themed virtual tours with the tablet computers in future, as they are a great opportunity to take residents to places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. The sense of wonder the technology gives residents access to is invaluable.”