So far on this trip, we have been to two aquariums; The Shedd in Chicago, and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Though they were both cool, I don’t think that even added together they equal the Monterey Bay Aquarium. But that is so amazingly awesome that even less than half of it is still amazing.
Both aquariums had green sea turtles. Nickel, named because a nickel was found in his stomach when he was rescued, was smaller, but he had all his flippers. The Baltimore turtle had only three, but I was so busy marvelling at her size that I didn’t notice until someone pointed it out to me. She was longer than the diver who was feeding her, and her shell was the size of a tire.
Another similarity was that they both had dolphin shows and stingray petting. At the National aquarium however, there was nothing telling you when the shows were, or even telling you that they had dolphins, so we missed that. I missed the show at the Shedd too, while I was looking for the stingray petting. I never found it. At the other aquarium however, they had a tank with skates, horseshoe crabs, and stingrays. The tail barbs on the stingrays were clipped, which is good, because a sting from one is so painful, fishermen in the Amazon call them “wish you were dead fish.” There was also a tank with moonjellies they let you poke, because unlike other jellyfish, their stings are so small you can’t even feel them.
The National Aquarium had more sharks. Shark alley, a three level exhibit where the sharks and sawfish were literally swimming all around you was awesome. I’d never seen a sawfish before, and they are the weirdest things. There were also a few giant pufferfish, who wore the silliest expressions. Zoe the leopard shark only swam in tight circles for the entire time we watched her.
The Shedd had more marine mammals, including sea otters, seals, and the beluga whale tank I once threw my ragdoll in when I was a baby. True story.
They also had a special exhibit about amphibians. It had a large variety of poison dart frogs, as well as a giant Japanese salamander.
But my favorite exhibit was the jellyfish in Baltimore. They had upside-down jellies, who, instead of floating around, affix their bells (the top part) to hard objects like rocks, and wave their tentacles around waiting for food to come to them. Brown blubber jellyfish look like the Oxiclean scrubbing bubbles things. I couldn’t stop laughing when I was watching them. Jellyfish are the living lava lamps of the animal world. There was another tank of moonjellies too. One cool thing about moon jellies is that they’re translucent, so you can see right into their stomachs, which look like flowers on the top of their bells. Usually full of orange or blue zooplankton, they range from having four to six “petals” or stomach compartments, and no one is sure what causes the variation. The aquarium obviously didn’t have any on display, but box jellies are the evil cousin of moon jellies. Clear and small, they live in Australian waters, and are the most poisonous animals in the world. A single sting from one can kill a human in less than twenty minutes. The more visible and less deadly Australian white-spotted jellyfish was on display, and looked nearly as ridiculous as the blubber bots.
Though both aquariums are expensive, over forty dollars a ticket, I think they were worth it. Be sure to manage your time wisely, and go see the dolphin shows we missed.