Santa scales the depths

'I've seen a cat fish, star fish - and Santa.' Jean McLeish investigates

When santa swims with sharks and you're eight years old, you could be forgiven for feeling nervous. Who will deliver the pink mini fridge, the chocolate fountain, the computer games, and the selection boxes if anything happens to him?

But P4 pupils from Macduff Primary on the Banffshire coast took it all in their stride when they visited Macduff Marine Aquarium where Santa feeding fishes is a popular attraction, although their teacher Teresa Flanagan admitted: "There are some big scary fish."

Macduff Marine Aquarium has just netted the Best Visit Experience 2008 Award from the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions. The aquarium runs a range of programmes for visiting schools and has an outreach venture which takes sea creatures like star fish and hermit crabs into schools in specially-adapted cool boxes.

The aquarium is owned by Aberdeenshire Council and attracts 50,000 visitors a year - including thousands of schoolchildren like Amber Seivwright, 8. "I've seen a cat fish, I've seen star fish and I've seen Santa," says the Macduff Primary pupil.

"We are studying water just now, so this is quite relevant to what we're doing," says Mrs Flanagan, who has brought the 25 pupils for a sneak preview of Santa's dive.

Louise Russell, the guide and education assistant, says: "It's all local Scottish fish that you find in the Moray Firth in the tank. So the big ones we have are ones like cod and saithe and haddock.

"The Lesser Spotted Dogfish are the small sharks we have. These guys are just about a metre in length," she says. "They're not huge, but they're very common in the Moray Firth."

Santa will be performing the routine at the aquarium's Christmas Fishes Fun Weekend on December 20 and 21.

www.macduff-aquarium.co.uk.

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