Thursday, February 14, 2008

Think Tank

On a cool day by Florida standards, overcast, and a relatively dismal day, we ventured into Tampa for a visit to the Florida (Tampa) Aquarium. It's a nice aquarium, poised at the precipice of a major renovation during which the goal of making it one of the world's most interactive aquariums should be realized. There was an ongoing art show within the confines of the aquarium displays that had some really terrific stuff, including the one below called "Think Tank."

This aquarium features the usual fish displays, but has some really dynamic indoor/outdoor environments to explore as well. Inside this massive greenhouse is a "working" mangrove swamp with fish, turtles, rays, otters, nesting birds, orchids, and more.
The giant Manta Ray at the entrance gives you the feel of being in the water with these magnificent and absolutely gigantic creatures. They do not have a live one on display. As far as I know they have never been kept in captivity. But I sure would like to discover otherwise...or get a chance to swim with them somewhere, sometime. Memo to self: Add that to the "to do" list.There is a widely diversified "touch tank" that offers contact with many more marine creatures than the typical starfish and conch experiences offered by a lot of aquariums. This one had a variety of anemones that were touchable- often they are not!
This clown fish swims with a giant clam and some lovely anemones. Giant clam. Did I mention I love sushi and clams on the half shell??? Just asking....
The Florida Aquarium already offers the world's ONLY interactive experience with, of all things, Penguins. We gathered in the big tank theater room in anticipation of the "Penguin Promenade." Kids get to sit on the floor up front. That's not fair! I couldn't make myself look small enough to make it up there, but what the heck. Even from the Peanut Gallery the view of the crowd awaiting the penguins was fun.
Once the penguins arrived, the kids weren't quite as brave about being up front. But the crowd had me penned in up back so I took whatever shots I could from back there.
You know, if you have ever been to a penguin display, that they have a very strong odor about them. It comes from "guano" which is, well, penguin poop. Here is one of the interesting factoids we learned about the real "poop" on penguins. They can project, that is to say, "shoot" their poop a distance of about four feet. You can challenge this fact if you wish, but as I was there and a penguin poops every 10 minutes or so, I can tell you that this fact was, in fact, demonstrated on more than one occasion. So when the handler tells you their poop can shoot four feet- believe it. But here's the thing, when they pick them up to bring them close up and personal for the photo shot- that range doubles to about 8 feet. That too is true. Eau de Penguin. Very fashionable I hear.
Before back surgery caused me to discontinue scuba diving, I tried to see jelly fish in the water column for the express purpose of staying away from them. But now that I watch them through the glass in an aquarium display, I find the fascination with them much more interesting and appreciable. While they are some of the most simple creatures in the sea, they are spectacularly beautiful, especially when the light catches their structure just right. I love to photograph them, so here's a sample from the Tampa Aquarium jelly display.
The lion does not always roar. Sometimes he moves slowly and silently through the grass and waits for the perfect moment to take his prey. This lion operates like that all the time.
Something for every one. Pretty little thing, eh?

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