The fish were flown more than 8,000 miles on a UPS B-747 freighter from Taipei, Taiwan, through Anchorage to Atlanta. The two sharks each are about 13 feet in length and together weigh nearly 2,200 pounds.
The movement of the whale sharks is believed to be the first in history for this species. The name "whale" has been applied to the fish because of its huge size, but they are fish and not mammals. The whale shark can reach up to 45-to-50 feet in length.
The movement presented a number of logistics challenges, including the re-configuration of the plane's interior; custom tanks with a highly advanced marine life support system, and marine animal doctors traveling aboard. Special hoisting equipment also was required at each end of the journey. The full capacity of the B-747 was required because the fish, their special tanks and water weighed a combined 54,000 pounds.
The Georgia Aquarium will open this fall. UPS, which is headquartered in Atlanta, is providing a number of in-kind services to support the hometown project.