Monterey Bay Aquarium’s $19M renovation unveiled

Posted: 06/30/2011 in all marine news

Dennis Taylor – 

When he was 12, future marine biologist Jon Hoech donned a scuba mask, stuck his face in the ocean, and got his first look at a school of fish, performing a majestic underwater choreography — something that only happens in the wild. Until now.

“The other day, this school of sardines created a ring around the full exhibit,” Hoech said, pointing to the frantic army of 9,000 fish zipping around the 1 million-gallon tank that houses the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new Open Sea attraction. “We threw krill in the middle and the sardines all fanned toward the center to create this huge, flat pancake. Then they erupted into this big cone. I almost dropped to my knees when I saw that happen.

“It’s a spectacular thing to see in the wild, and it takes the right exhibit and a lot of resources to make it happen in a place like this,” he said. “But we’re going to do it, and it’s going to be very exciting for our guests to see.”

The Open Sea exhibit is the centerpiece of the aquarium’s $19 million renovation, which will debut to the public July 2 (with a sneak preview for members on July 1). The mammoth tank that houses the sardines is also home to many of the sea life that previously were part of the Outer Bay attraction — schools of tuna, mahi-mahi, and a pair of giant, green sea turtles, now believed to be at least 60 years old.

“Repeat visitors will recognize a lot of the old cast, but we’ll be integrating a lot of new animals, too,” said Hoech, director of husbandry for the aquarium. “This will be one of the largest schools of sardines we’ve ever displayed, which pleases me a lot because it’s a magnificent animal that we’ve never really done justice to, displaying them in all of their color and glory and numbers like we’re going to have.”

Inhabitants of The Open Sea will be enhanced by new technology that includes a fresh lighting regime to bring out the natural beauty of the animals, a bubble curtain that not only adds ambiance but helps the animals navigate without encountering the glass barrier and a water-motion device that will create waves that will cause the light waves to dance.

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