Posted by: hmchang | September 23, 2007

Travel: Monterey Bay Aquarium

This past weekend, I traveled with two of my friends to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was about 1.5 drive from San Jose. It was not that far from the Bay Area, but I have never been there when I was doing my Masters. During this visit, we went to the aquarium and the fisherman’s wharf at Monterey.

The aquarium is not as big as the one I visited before (sorry that I can’t really remember which ones I have visited, perhaps the one in Vancouver). Even though it is not large, it has its unique sea livings – like sea otter and jellyfish. Sea otters are very cute animals, and since they have very thick & heavy furs, it is hard for them to swim fast. They usually stay on top of the water for most of the time and also tangle themselves with some floating plants in the sea to prevent themselves being pushed away by the tides. Due to lack of food sources and by-catch, sea otters are now endangered. I also learned that each mother otter will only take care of one new born each year so if there is a twin, one of the twins will be discarded. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been working hard on saving these left-over otters and also try to grow the otter population. By tagging the otters and putting sensors on them, researchers have done several experiments and understand otter’s behavior better. Hopefully the otter population can grow much larger in the near future.

Jellyfishes comes in diverse sizes, types and colors. Although the basic organs are the same, some of big enough to scare you and some are too small to be visible. The aquarium did a good job on lighting on those jellyfishes so they look very beautiful. They also had several models and illustrations to explain details of the jellyfish. The collection of jellyfish is by far the largest I have seen among all the aquariums I have visited.

The aquarium did a lot of educative settings. For example, they held feeding demos in which they not only demonstrate how the trainers interact with the fishes but also educate the kids the key behaviors of each species. In fact, from the illustration board of each tank, we can also learn how the nature works. For example, some fishes have dark color on their back and bright color on their belly side. The dark side provide protection by diving down to the sea while the bright side is good when they are on the surface. Such detail is really shows how animals could survive and thrive in a dangerous sea environment.

Furthermore, there are some hands-on touching pools where you can feel the starfish and others. That was a really unique experience for me. Finally, the aquarium has an special room for birds. In this place, you can be as close as 50cm to a bird. It is amazing to see them so closely.

One significant difference of this aquarium as compared to the ones I visited before is that they have several big tanks where they put many fishes together. There are at least three such tanks. I always wonder how they know which species would not fight or eat out the other species. I guess they must have done thorough enough study to make such arrangement.

After our visit to the aquarium, we went to the fisherman’s wharf at Monterey. This fisherman’s wharf is larger in size as compared to the one in Santa Barbara but smaller in size as compared to the one in San Francisco. The most popular food is probably the clam chowder in a bread bowl. There are several stores that gave out samples for free trail. When the weather is cold, it’s good to have a cup of clam chowder. The two samples I had this time have very diverse tastes. It would be really interesting to try out more and figure out the one I would like the best.

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