Long Beach Aquarium - I was fortunate to be attending an event at the Long Beach Convention Center since the Long Beach Aquarium was only a short walk from the Convention Center. The design of this Aquarium is easily the most dynamic I've ever seen. The long main gallery has a wave motif with the different sections and exhibits branching off. Exhibits are first rate and modern.
Monterey Bay Aquarium - Situated on Cannery Row along Monterey Bay, the exhibits in this aquarium are a perfect counterpoint to the richness of life in Monterey Bay. The first time I visited the aquarium in 1990, I was immediately impressed by the dynamics and clarity of the exhibits. The kelp forest exhibit to the left of the entrance had kelp growth problems due to the low nutrient water during the El Nino of 1997-1998. The addition of some common garden fertilizer helped bring back the kelp growth. If one walks to the very top of the aquarium, one can see the top of the kelp forest exhibit. A giant piston creates the tidal flow within the exhibit. Water is sprayed on top in order to prevent the fronds of kelp on the surface from drying out. Wires are laid out in order to prevent sea birds from flying into the exhibit.
The smaller exhibits around the aquarium are cleverly designed to show off the different habitats and denizens of Monterey Bay. I particularly like the exhibit with the angled acrylic top that gives you a close up top view of what lives among the rocks. There are numerous hands-on exhibits for those who want to get their hands wet. There is a shallow pool full of rays where children try to pet the rays as they swim by. One time I was there and all the rays were congregated away from the edge of the pool - I guess the rays wanted to take a "petting" break. Right next to the ray pool, one can pick up life forms from Monterey Bay that include starfish, sea cucumbers, sand dollars and kelp. Upstairs, there is another hands-on exhibit with microscopes.
Toward the right of the entrance are the playful sea otters. Large crowds congregate whenever the handlers feed the sea otters. If you rent out a kayak, you might be able to see a sea otter in its natural environment as you paddle along the kelp beds. As you take the escalators toward the newest section of the aquarium, you'll see anchovies swimming above you in a ring aquarium.
Toward the right of the ring aquarium are the Jellies exhibits. The Monterey Bay Aquarium must have the most extensive Jellies exhibits in the world. They show off everything from plankton sized Jellies to monstrous floating jewels. This is just a prelude to the one-million gallon centerpiece of the new Outer Bay section - the Outer Bay exhibit. The tall, clear panels of acrylic that show off the large fishes of the Outer Bay appear to be nonexistent. It seems like only a forcefield holds back the panoramic view that extends before you.
The newest exhibit at the Aquarium is Mysteries of the Deep. With strange specimens from the depths of the Monterey Bay Canyon and a history of man's deep sea exploration, this type of exhibit is something I've never seen before at another aquarium.
New England Aquarium - This aquarium sits on the edge of Boston Harbor. It has some interesting exhibits on the aquatic life of the New England area, but I think the most interesting part of the aquarium is the open penguin exhibit. One can seen various species of penguins swimming and walking around with aquarium staff feeding and studying them.
The Seattle Aquarium
Shedd Aquarium - This aquarium sits on the shores of Lake Michigan right next to the Field Museum. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, this was the first big aquarium I was exposed to. I purchased my first copy of TFH from the gift shop back in 1977. I always loved the small tank exhibit off the entrance to the left which showcased fish commonly kept by hobbyists. But the last time I visited in the summer of 1998, an enlarged gift shop had replaced the small tank exhibit. Many of the marine tanks were also in dire need of maintenance. They were overgrown with saw blade caulerpa and Aiptasia in many cases. This was in contrast to the tanks I remember in the 70's and 80's that displayed some wonderful marine life. Maybe the Shedd is paying more attention now to the new whale exhibit addition that was added in the 90's and neglecting their old exhibits. Still, the Shedd is a definite must see, especially if you live in the Midwest, because of its history and its size.
Texas State Aquarium
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