Monday, December 17, 2007

It’s beginning to look a lot like fishmas


On December 2, the marketing guys and I met at the Aquarium of the Pacific for the Holiday Treats for the Animals event.

The animals all received special holiday treats, there were arts & crafts for the kids along with an elf magician, festive carolers, story-telling and even (artificial) snow!


If you’re not from SoCal, you may be unfamiliar with the Aquarium of the Pacific. Thank goodness for Wikipedia:

The aquarium was designed as a joint venture of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassanbaum and Esherick, Homsey, Dodge and Davis. Construction began in 1995 and the 156,735 square foot (14,560 m³) aquarium opened in 1998. Since the aquarium is built on a site created through land reclamation in an area prone to earthquakes the facility is built on top of 1,800 cement pilings which each extend 85 feet into the ground and are surrounded by gravel. The facility filters about 900,000 gallons (3.4 million liters) of salt water per hour, the capacity of all the exhibits totals about 1,100,000 gallons (4.2 million liters). Courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific website
As you enter the aquarium, your eyes are immediately drawn to the life-sized model blue whale suspended from the building’s vaulted ceiling. The literature they supply you with informs you that the model whale is a female.

I wondered if she had a name.

Venturing further into the Great Hall of the Pacific, there is a windowed pane to your right that provides a sneak-peek at a later exhibit, the Tropical Pacific Gallery.

It was here that the marketing dudes and I realized we had finally become true fish geeks. Peering into the Tropical Pacific Preview, we excitedly exchanged glances before shouting out the names of every fish we could identify.

Three Spot Damselfish!” “Blue-Green Chromis!” “Foxface Rabbitfish!”

I don’t think the three of us had ever relished in our own nerdiness so much.

Just ahead, in front of the Blue Cavern—modeled after a kelp forest along the north-eastern coast of Catalina Island—was the holiday penguin show … ending.

Bummer.

At least we got to snap a few photos of the little guys before they waddled away.

Outside in Explorers Cove is an enclosure dubbed the Lorikeet Forest. Lorikeets are small to medium-sized arboreal parrots with beautiful plumage and playful personalities.

The “Lorikeets Hunger Meter” outside the enclosure indicated our feathered friends were indeed hungry, so we each bought a cup of nectar and entered the habitat.

Ignoring the stop sign shaped “We Bite” signpost, Brian began hopping from one leg to the other, mirroring the Lorikeet in front of him. Jeff and I were pretty amused with Brian and the bird’s stomping of the yard, but the volunteer on duty was not so impressed. She warned us that the bird was protecting its nest and at any moment would claw Brian’s face.

We decided it was time to move on.

The Shark Lagoon is easily one of the more popular areas of the Aquarium of the Pacific. It was here we learned that sharks are one of the ocean’s most mysterious and misunderstood predators. While that was fascinating, we were a bit more intrigued by the aquarium’s “two finger” method.

In select exhibits, like the Shark Lagoon and Ray Touchpool, you can freely touch the animals under the guise that you utilize the “two finger” method. This, of course, is for the safety of the animals; hundreds of visitors grabbing and scratching at their delicate skin would otherwise take its toll.

I believe our befuddlement was regarding how the aquarium staff came to the determination that two fingers, as opposed to say, one or three, would spare the animals from human harm.

Best to leave those decisions to the experts, I suppose.

“Scuba Santa” made his special guest appearance just as we were making our way into the Tropical Pacific Gallery. Donning a Santa-inspired wetsuit, the diver swam around, pausing occasionally to pose for pictures as he told kids of all ages who his favorite aquarium inhabitants are.

All in all, it was a great aquarist outing and we offer our sincere thanks to the Aquarium of the Pacific for inviting us out.

If you’re interested in visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific, click here to plan your visit.