British champion freediver Alice Hickson did a nearly-five-minute, in-water breath hold while surrounded by sharks at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium this week.
Hickson held her breath for 4 minutes 55 seconds while being nose-to-fin with 8ft/2.44m-long Sand Tiger sharks Bungle and Zippy, according to the aquarium.
The challenge took place ahead of Hickson competing in the World Static Apnea Championships in Bulgaria later this month and coincides with the aquarium’s current Shark Awareness campaign which aims to raise awareness of shark conservation.
Hickson said of her experience:
“It’s not every day that you hold your breath whilst underwater and surrounded by sharks, but what an experience it was and something I’ll never forget.
“It’s been great working with SEA LIFE London Aquarium on this breath hold. Sharks are beautiful creatures and I wanted to take on this static apnea challenge in the shark tank to help debunk the bad guy reputation that they have. Yes, sharks are predators and can be dangerous but in actual fact, more people are killed by vending machines than they are sharks!”
With the risk of shark extinction possible due to issues including overfishing and shark finning, it’s now more important than ever to raise awareness of how important they are to the oceanic ecosystem and how people shouldn’t believe everything they see and read about them, she added.
Aquarists at SEA LIFE London Aquarium hope that inviting Hickson to complete a challenge that requires immense focus and a sustained period of stillness within the snorkeling with sharks cage will help demonstrate to the public that sharks are not as scary as is widely believed.
Catherine Pritchard, General Manager at the aquarium, said:
“We were thrilled to welcome Alice Hickson to SEA LIFE London Aquarium as she took on this momentous challenge. We hope Alice’s achievement will show our guests that sharks are in fact some of the most important creatures in our oceans and not the villains that they are often portrayed as.”