Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Monterey aquarium

Getting up at the crack of dawn we waited around to be the first to request the Monterey aquarium guest passes from the hostel's manager. Having got the passes we arrived at the aquarium at opening time. A crowd assembled round the sea otter enclosure to watch the feeding. I couldn't help but feel sorry for these three otters which can't be released back into the wild. Their enclosure as pitifully small and they were being fed bits of squid and fish, but not the shells you seen them hacking open in the wild. Voted the second best aquarium in the US lots of people seem to rave about the Monterey aquarium, but we weren't feeling too impressed,had we actually paid the $60 entrance fee we'd have been even more unimpressed. The tanks all seem pretty small, one poor penguin was trying to build a nest with no nest material, a turfed puffin swimming desperately into the glass trying to find freedom and shoals of fish would have to swim in circles all day and night. There was an area where you could go and touch starfish, sea slugs, urchins and other rockpool beasts. Surely this is a horrible existence for these animals being touched all day and perhaps constantly thinking they're going to be eaten. Perhaps they're not thinking anything though..

Thankfully the aquarium doesn't have any other marine mammals apart from the otters. There is just the big tank of the Pacific ocean. The star exhibit there was a really close grey whale. We were walking around when Jenny said she'd seen a whale right outside. So we rushed out to the balcony to join a few of the staff looking at the whale. It was so close that you could see the barnacles on its back, but it was tricky to imagine how big it was. After about five minutes what seemed like all the aquarium's visitors had emptied out onto the deck to look at the whale. Even the staff seemed excited that it was this close. By the time we'd seen enough of the whale there were very few people still looking at it.

In the aquariums auditorium we went to an interesting talk on biomimicry, inspiration from nature for great inventions. Bumps on the leading edge of humpback whales' flippers have inspired a new design for windturbine blades. Bumps on the edge of blades can lead to 40% increase in output. There's also a new car design based on the boxfish, which is a very square yellow fish that maneuvers well into small spaces and is very fast. Mercedes-Benz makes the cars, although I don't think they're selling them yet. Apparently they can get 80 miles to the gallon.

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