Monday, April 04, 2011

USA Part 4 - fishes galore...

The interesting thing about the fire department in US is that they have volunteer service as well – I’m not sure of the cities but at least in the outskirt communities, residents can opt to join the fire department as a part time volunteer – the department gives you training for a few months and you can tell them what timings you will be available – it is like an on-call support in case of any emergency where they can have extra people; so there is a core full time team that gets help from volunteers when needed. It sure sounds like a nice idea. It was clear that we were on the right track because the breeze got stronger and you could sense that you were approaching the sea – the aquarium was located on the coast of Boston. My friend was eager to take snaps while I was eager to get into the aquarium. As I stood in the queue I noticed something called a city pass being sold in the same ticket counter which provided tickets to four places at a discounted price – you could save 30 dollars rather than buying the tickets to four places individually and the good part was that you could use it for 9 days – but I didn’t believe we’d need it for more than today; according to our plan Boston was supposed to be completed in one day.

Just before entering, the camera went dead in my friend’s hand – the battery sign popped up! At the entrance to the aquarium, a lady stamped our hand with a green symbol – it seems that you can reenter in the same day multiple times; that’s nice- they don’t force you to finish the trip in one stretch. The entry wasn’t that grand because the first thing we walked into was the penguin area – the setting somehow didn’t seem to be that interesting or exciting; there was a lady staff who was taking questions from the audience that stood around the spiral staircase; the penguin area was in the center of the building. On the left side you had some exhibits explaining the work that is done in the aquarium etc. These weren’t the large black and white penguins but smaller ones. We made our way upwards to see what else was in store – the lights were pretty dim and when I saw the penguin area I just didn’t feel that the setting was right. But when we came to the first few fishes I realized that this might be better than what I thought. There were some pretty illustrative posters beside each of the small fish tanks explaining interesting facts about them. And then in some places you had demonstration exhibits with Q&A to try your hand at – I learnt that some fishes have a higher concentration of mercury; so fish eaters beware – you are injecting mercury into your body with every bite of a fish! Some of the fishes were amazing – like the leafy sea dragon which demonstrated a fascinating way of camouflage; a fish that looks like a plant. Wiki image of a sea dragon

Then there was the blue frog which we had a tough time spotting – it was so tiny but stood out in the water. It was supposed to be very poisonous – the odd color an indication to other fishes “to be careful”! Then there were the jellyfishes with umbrellas and there was an exhibit that explained the effect of ocean currents on fishes – when the direction changes, the fish changed their direction as well – and you could press a button to change direction and see how the fish reacted. There was another one explaining about high tide and low tide and again it was setup such that every 20 minutes the tide changes and you can see the effect. There was one tank with plenty of fishes swimming in high speed to demonstrate schooling - a large group of fishes of the same family swim at high speeds in one direction – it helps in making it easier for them to swim and also helps in defending themselves from predators. Wiki - school of fish

The aquarium in Atlantis (Dubai) was in excellent setting but not very informative because of missing posters and messages. The one here wasn’t all that great compared to Atlantis in setting, but this was highly educative and fun to learn. There was a live session going on at the top of the spiral staircase on the top floor where you had a trainer explain about all the fishes present in his huge tank. He explained about the giant turtle and then the two sharks inside and asked for questions from the audience – guess who was first in that crowd to raise their hand and ask a question? A kid – yeah a kid; curiosity and kids go together and they never seem to worry about what the other person will think of their question. There was an interesting question about “won’t the sharks eat the other fish?” to which the staff replied, “They might, we can’t stop it but since we drop food for them twice a day, the chance of it happening is very rare. In the oceans, shark eat once a week or once in two weeks while here we drop food twice a day so they can eat whenever they want.” The kids wanted to ask more questions but the instructor moved on since he was running short of time. And we moved on since we couldn’t wait for 40 minutes for him to finish the presentation. The spiral staircase went around a fish tank where there were a variety of fishes – some huge, some tiny and some fierce looking like the shark.

There was a tank that had the clown fish – remember the one in Nemo with orange and white stripes? In fact, looking back, I think I saw many of the fishes that appeared in Finding Nemo in this aquarium – amazing, the creativity of the guys who conceived the idea for that story and picked up a variety of fishes. We didn’t go to the imax 3-D theatre block of the aquarium since both of us had seen imax theatres before. We spent more time than what we thought we’d take – around a couple of hours but the Boston trip had got off to a good start. Next stop – the science center.

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