The little girl who dived into a tank full of sharks

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MOST people wouldn’t dare dive into a tank full of sharks – but for eight year old Jess Whitwam it was a dream come true.

Jess, from Northowram, became the youngest person to dive with the sharks at the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire.

Her father Chris said: “Ever since Jessica was little she has had shark cuddly toys, shark games and books on sharks.

“She was counting the days off on a calendar and I’m quite proud that she’s so interested.

“It was very scary as a parent but sometimes you just need to let go.”

Jess swam with five species of sharks, including 1.5-metre-long black tips and two-metre-long zebra sharks and hundreds of reef species like trigger fish and puffer fish.

She said: “I liked the zebra shark best because it was very friendly and funny swimming really close.

“I also really liked my instructors because they were kind and played games in the pool before the dive.”

The dive was part of the aquarium’s Junior Shark Encounter scheme aimed at children up to 15 years old.

Mr Whitwam goes scuba diving in his spare time and says Jess was cut out for it from an early age.

“When I was diving Jess would snorkel on the surface above me,” he said. “She’s been doing that since she was three.”

“She knows a lot about sharks and can identify most of them. I think she might be a marine biologist when she’s older.”