Category Archives: wildlife

Alpine lakes

Early on in our big trip three years ago, we learned how both Greta and I relate to landscapes:  she gets bored with stopping intermittently while driving to look at the scenery or big views.  She has to be moving – hiking, biking or rowing – and then she can appreciate the surroundings.  On the other hand, I look for constantly shifting views and a variety of spatial experiences: both unrelieved short views (like hiking in the woods), or unrelieved long views (like hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon), bore me.  So satisfying these two criteria became our modus operandi for the rest of the trip, and the character of the hikes often determined how much we liked a place.  Then on this trip, we added one more variable, with Linda’s preferences: she will often focus on the small scale – plants and flowers – that Greta and I barely register.  Luckily for us, there were hikes in Glacier that were spectacular in all these different ways simultaneously, and we all agreed that these were some of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen.

The first was along St. Mary Lake, starting from Sun Point, where there had been a chalet, which fell into disrepair and was eventually demolished. The view from this spot looked west towards Logan Pass, and I can imagine sitting on a porch at that chalet, looking at the light change on this view (while sipping a Huckleberry Smash).

We hiked along the north side of the Lake, which had been swept by the Reynolds Burn in 2015.  As the climate changes and droughts intensify, Glacier has been hit by a series of big fires in recent years; we had in fact planned our trip for early July, knowing that much of the area has been engulfed in forest fire smoke in mid-to late summer in recent years.

But our reaction to the burn areas was not what we expected – they didn’t seem devastated, and we didn’t spend the day bemoaning the loss of habitat and natural beauty.  It was astounding to see how much new growth had appeared in just three years.  The scorched trees were surrounded by undergrowth, and new trees were already springing up. 

It had a strange beauty, in the contrast between the scorched trees and the abundant, bright green growth.  (As we always said to Greta when she was confronted with death or destruction as a small child – it’s the Circle of Life).  The landscape resonated with meaning, and I wondered if this was the same appeal that we architects find in what’s been called Ruin Porn – those stunning photos of major buildings from the not-so-distant past, falling into decay.

We came across information from the Park Service which emphasized to visitors how different familiar trails would now be after forest fires.  Just three years ago, this hike would have been almost completely in the shade, only emerging at a few points to access longer views.  Now the sun shone everywhere, and the mountains were always visible in the background. 

There are series of waterfalls feeding into St. Mary Lake, most of which are accessible on shorter hikes off the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Here Greta has been applying her newly-learned rock-climbing skills to scramble up the Baring Falls (and to make her mother nervous).

St. Mary Falls was pretty crowded, and we began to understand the demographic of summer visitors to Glacier.  On our trip three years ago, we learned that when you’re camping in the South in the winter, you’re surrounded by retired Northerners.  This time we found that when you’re camping in the North in the summer, you’re surrounded by extended families of Southerners (and some Midwesterners).  In the Fish Creek campground, there were many multiple-RV encampments of connected households, who had travelled in convoys from their hot, humid homes.  They all seemed to have at least four kids, and the womenfolk tended to domestic tasks, while the guys messed with their RVs and giant pickups, and the kids rode their bikes in circles and ran amuck with sticks. Then they would all organize themselves, and head off on a short group hike to a noted destination. 

The crowds thinned out dramatically at Virginia Falls – the Southerners wearing flip-flops and dragging little kids along looked at the rocky climb and turned back to their vehicles. But for those less-encumbered, it was well-worth the climb.

On the return hike, we noticed a change in the view.  Hiking west, all of the trees we saw were scorched black.  Now as we headed back east, they were all silver. We realized that the fire has swept up the valley from east to west, so the east-facing sides of the trees had been scorched, and the west sides had been protected.  The fire must have burned off all available fuel quickly enough that most trees were not consumed, but left standing in this strange, two-toned manner.

 

When I briefly visited Glacier 22 years ago, during a one-week cross-country drive with my brother, I had stood at this point behind the Many Glacier Hotel, thinking it was the most perfect alpine view I’d ever seen (I described it to Greta as reminiscent of a Palladian villa, with its symmetry and hierarchy of flanking elements), and wanting to hike up one of those valleys which flanked the ridge of Mt. Grinnell in the center.  I finally got my chance, as we hiked around the south side of Swiftcurrent Lake, and then up the valley on the left, past Josephine Lake and arriving at Grinnell Lake. 

But before starting this hike, we stopped along Lake Sherburne, to see the huge meadows of wildflowers.  Even I, who has what we have come to term FPD (floral perception disorder) noticed these, and Linda was in heaven. 

Swiftcurrent Lake is circled by an easy trail, on which we kept our eyes open, as we had seen two moose there a few days before, and passing hikers told us of spotting bears. 

At the head of the lake there is short stream which connects it to the higher Josephine Lake.

Both lakes have excursion boats – if you don’t want to do the longer hike, you can take the boat to the head of Swiftcurrent, hike half a mile to Josephine, where you can catch this boat, which takes you to the head of Josephine, and closer to Grinnell. 

The water was much warmer in the lake than in the streams which drained the glacier fields directly. We did some wading, and wished we’d brought bathing suits. 

The hike from Josephine to Grinnell is through the woods and longer, and has some interesting aspects, such as this bridge, and a nice side climb to another waterfall. 

The path opens up, and Grinnell Lake comes in to view. 

It’s an amazing spot, with rugged peaks on every side, and a very cold stream to ford.

The waterfalls across the lake drain the Grinnell Glacier above.  It was hard to believe this place was real – it looked more like a CGI landscape from a movie about Shangri-La. 

Overall, it was about an 8 mile hike, with 800 feet of elevation gain.  Minimal effort, for a series of spots and views that are extraordinary.

 

Our final alpine lake hike was from the Logan Pass visitors’ center to Hidden Lake.  We took a shuttle bus to the top, which is much easier to do from the east side than the west. The hike starts at 6646 feet, and climbs another 600 feet, before dropping 900 feet to the lake.  It is incredibly busy – lots of visitors get to the pass and decide they can do the first section to an overlook, so the wetter areas have boardwalks to accommodate the crowds. 

We’d been heating stories all week about bear sightings (including someone who said that a grizzly cub snuck up behind him and nuzzled his side), but we hadn’t seen any at all. Finally, we spotted a grizzly sitting on the snow a few miles away (circled below).  Linda thought that was the right distance from which to view a grizzly. 

The path then climbed through a snowfield (which was definitely a slushfield by the time we returned), and where we were able to once again marvel at how tourists will just take off on a hike that seems reasonable, no matter how unprepared they are for it.  We saw many people in tee shirts, gym shorts and flip-flops (and no other gear) heading across the snow, dragging tiny children, some wearing tutus and carrying stuffed animals.  I actually had some initial problems with the altitude, having just taken a bus up the 3000 foot elevation change on the road, but I acclimated after about half an hour.  But we saw many people much older and in worse shape than us, who seemed undaunted.

This recalled an observation Greta and I had made while climbing through a cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde – you can probably complete a somewhat demanding excursion if you are old, or out of shape, or ill-prepared, but if two of those three conditions apply to you, you might be in trouble.  But we’ve found that with little oversight from rangers or officials, people seem to make reasonable decisions about their capabilities.  The one exception we came across was a young family that was about to head onto the pretty demanding hike to Avalanche Lake with three kids under seven, and no lunch (the shuttle from the west side was really busy, and they’d arrived at the trailhead later than expected).  We gave them our energy bars, and when we ran into them at the end of the day, they said they never would have made it otherwise. 

We arrived at this saddle 600 feet above the pass,

and hiked past the overlook to this view of Hidden Lake below.  If you look at the bottom of that notch to the right, you can also see the end of Lake McDonald, 4000 feet below.

The big panorama is breathtaking, but there were other attractions.  We took a break and watched a marmot (between Linda and Greta) licking a big rock. There were many other marmots around, a few different species of chipmunks,

and lots of mountain goats, who seemed quite used to the crowds, and who were willing to pose photogenically in the foreground. 

We left the crowds behind for more slush-climbing and scree fields,

and arrived at this spot by the lake for lunch.  We cooled our waterbottles in the snow, and watched the reflections in the lake while chatting with some other hikers. 

They pointed out that at the mouth of the lake, there was an osprey catching fish, while two rainbow trout were somewhere in the middle of their extended spawning activity.  The female (on the left), was swimming in place in the current, and every few minutes would writhe around, digging a trench in the gravel for her eggs.  The male was waiting to fertilize them, but would shoot off every minute or so, to chase off other males who were trying to horn in on the action.  I’m pretty much a city guy, and I couldn’t believe we were seeing this – it struck me as entirely too much like a staged nature video for it to be real. 

The reflections on the still lake were dazzling. 

We climbed back up to the saddle, and crossed over to the east side again, where the mishaps of the late-day crowds were intensifying as the melting snow got slipperier and slipperier. 

As I’ve mentioned, most of the day hikes in Glacier were either too easy, or a bit beyond our capabilities (that might change if we were there for more than a week).  But these three hikes had everything we were looking for – awesome views of the mountains, beautiful blue lakes, constantly shifting perspectives, a level of exertion that was enough to guarantee we’d sleep well, and the small-scale attractions of plants and wildlife.  At some point on each of these hikes I’d pause, and remark that this was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.  `

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Monterey Bay Aquarium

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When I was little, my dad recorded Nature videos for me, including one about Monterey Bay. Having watched it a million times, I’m rather knowledgeable, and only a little obsessed.

The most unique exhibit is the kelp forest. Kelp, thirty or more feet tall and capable of growing a foot a day in optimum conditions, is notoriously hard to keep, needing a constant supply of seawater. To combat this, they designed and installed a giant pump that continuously pushes water through the exhibit. P1090616
On the way out, it also goes through the tidal exhibits, and over the big tunnel that kids love to scream in.P1090651

The shark and tuna exhibit had the largest single pane of aquarium glass in the world until it was topped by one in Japan. Then that broke, raining broken glass and sharks down on onlookers, and the one in Monterey Bay was back to being the largest. Sitting there in front of that giant portal into another world, I was struck by how large tuna can grow, unconstrained by gravity. They were much larger than the sharks, although they didn’t look as funny as the hammerheads, or even this baby leopard shark.P1090741

I was honestly less impressed with their jellyfish. Monterey Bay was the first aquarium to learn how to cultivate and display jellies, but they didn’t have the same variety as the special exhibit in Baltimore. That being said, the sea nettles were as beautifully backlit as always. P1090794The famous sea otters were the central exhibit, the first thing you see when you walk under the fiberglass orcas hanging from the ceiling. The four females, Rosa, Abby, Kit, and Gidget, frolic under the awed gaze of visitors. Their fur, thickest in the world with over a million hairs per square inch, more than humans have on our entire bodies, keeps them dry in the cold water, but without blubber, they still have to eat up to a quarter of their body weight each day to stay warm. I’d highly recommend going to watch when they’re fed, but if you want a good view, get there at least five minutes before the scheduled time.P1090771

Despite their adorability, they weren’t my favorite exhibit. Once again, a temporary show takes the cake; Tentacles, the cephalopods. In the kelp forest area, the aquarium had two giant pacific octopodes (It isn’t octopi. That’s the Latin pluralization, and the word is Greek.), who weren’t hiding in some crevice for once, were cool, but paled in comparison to the variety of this exhibit. As well as the creatures themselves, it had art featuring the charismatic molluscs, including a drawing of the infamous ship-eating Kraken, painted octopus pots dating back to the twelfth century, and, personal favorite, an octopus shaped diving helmet.P1090817As cool as that was though, as soon as I spotted the squid tank at the end of the hall, I was lost to the air-breathing world. The only real squid I’d seen before were either dissected in fifth grade, or fried and delicious. Out of its class, squid are the masters of mobility. Streamlined bodies allow great speeds through the simple act of siphoning air in and shooting it back out into the ocean. There was even a fake tank where you could pump a handle and make a model squid spin around.P1090824

Nautiluses, the only shelled cehpalopod, haven’t changed much since the days when they were called ammonites. Large eyes allow them to see in the low light of the twilight zone, where they spend the daylight hours. At night, some ascend to the upper levels of the ocean, filling the pockets in their shell with air so they bob upward, and no one really knows why. Cephalopods are a mysterious group.P1090849

Octopuses (the most common and also correct pronunciation) are revered for their brains and their escape artist abilities. Sadly, I was not witness to any of this. My disappointment was lightened by the mimic octopus, whose long limbs and chromatophores allow it to disguise itself as almost any animal. Once again though, I was not privy to the octopuses’ secrets.P1090840Screen-Shot-2016-05-14-at-9.35.50-AM
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The cuttlefish though were proud to show off. Especially the appropriately-named flamboyants. Rainbow zebra stripes raced down their bodies from their mantle towards their rather stubby but no less colorful arms. P1090852Their eyes only added to the alien qualities, W-shaped pupils observing us as they wait patiently for the takeover. P1090867Flashing patterns can be used for communication, as well as hiding from predators andstunning potential prey, so it isn’t unreasonable to assume that cephalopods have an ocean-spanning network of spies and soldiers waiting to swarm into our cities when they flood.The most interesting things in the world are often also some of the scariest, and these ancient, plotting, shapeshifting buglers who can grow to enormous sizes are no exception. It’s no wonder to me that sailors feared the Kraken.

Even if the cephalopods have moved on by the time you go, don’t miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium if you’re ever in the area. Tickets are expensive, but for good reason. A single sea otter eats $15,000 worth of seafood every year, and the other exhibits aren’t cheap to maintain either. Don’t miss out on anything this aquarium has to offer, from otters to touch pools to penguins and octopuses and beyond.

San Antonio Rodeo

We arrived in San Antonio to find our campground nearly full, and it was not until Dad spotted a poster that we figured out why. The rodeo was in town. In fact, it was being held at the fairgrounds just down the street. We had lucked into a campground within walking distance of the largest indoor rodeo in the country.
The main event didn’t start until 7, so we had some time to kill. I had no idea what team penning was, and it took me a while to figure it out. As far as I can tell, there are a bunch of calves or heifers or some small and agile kind of cow at one end of this big corral, and cowboys on horses begin at the other. All the cows have numbers plastered to their sides, and once the man in charge calls it out, it’s the cowboys’ job to separate out three bovids with that number and herd them into a smaller pen. The team who does it fastest wins. It was quite entertaining to watch, and I was amazed by how young some of the people doing it were. There was a girl who couldn’t have been older than eleven, wearing a sweatshirt that said, “Jesus, take the reins.”DSCF5404

We missed the pig races, and the petting zoo had a line out the door, but the Texan wildlife exhibit was open. A lot of the animals there actually made their main residence in Mexico or even South America, like the ocelot and coati mundi, who we got to watch eat the zookeepers hair. Even cuter than the prairie dogs was the racoon snuggling with an armadillo.

This rodeo didn’t only have bucking broncos, but bmx biking as well. A bike, without a mad mind of it’s own, is much easier to control than a horse, and the level of maneuverability was spectacular. An aerial trickster flew high into the air over a rather scared-looking volunteer, while another performer spun around like a ballerina with a bicycle. DSCF5426

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Walking into the stock show was one of the oddest experiences of my life. I’d seen 4-H shows before, but only bunnies and some goats. Never had I walked into a room filled with hundreds of cows. The variety of breeds and the variations inside that category was nearly as impressive as the sheer quantity of biomass in that building. At a show pen, little kids showed off animals they could barely reach the shoulders of. Everybody watching in the stands seemed very enthusiastic about how their kids placed, but I was more interested in climbing to the top of the bleachers to look out over the rows upon rows of cattle.DSCF5446

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Inside the swine barn I learned how you move a pig. It doesn’t go on a leash or a lead. It is simply guided by a switch. Presumably it has to be trained first, but even so, it was amazing how calm and controlled they were. Almost tripping over a pig was added to the list of odd experiences I was having that day.DSCF5461

By the time we’d found the least disgusting option (a corn dog) in a food court of donut burgers and deep fried oreos, it was time for the actual rodeo to start. We came in during the middle of the prayer, which was a truly odd experience. It was followed by a rendition of the National Anthem which was surpassed in awfulness only by the one from the Donald Trump rally in Eugene.

Bronco busting, both with a protective backboard so you won’t snap your spine and without, is insane. Watching it, I couldn’t help thinking about Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron, which was, and still is, one of my favorite movies. I simply don’t understand how we didn’t come to see anyone killed that night.

More hilarious and adorable, was mutton busting. Small children riding sheep. That pretty much says it all. They didn’t have a saddle or anything, and we’re just expected to grab the sheep by the wool, and hold onto it with their legs as it ran panicked across the arena. The finale, where all the kids were put on a sheep and let loose at the same time, was absolute mayhem.

I don’t understand bull riding at all. Unlike bronco busting, which serves to break a horse to make it tame enough to ride, it doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. No reward, then, unless you’re completely insane or an adrenaline junkie, and a very high risk. Bull riding has been called “the eight most dangerous seconds of sports” and I’m inclined to agree with that assessment, and add “the most insane.”

However, it is kind of fun and horrifying to watch. Roping and bull wrestling at least serves some purpose, and know I understand the expression “to take a bull by the horns.”

If you ever stumble into a rodeo like we did, don’t hesitate to go. Kids will love it, although you’ll probably end up waiting in the ridiculously long petting zoo line, and they might be upset if they aren’t signed up for mutton busting. Oh, and look out back of the cattle barn for the cow showers.DSCF5469

Insectarium

P1070187Insects make up a large percentage of the world’s species, over eighty percent. Every fourth species is a beetle. Noah’s Ark would have been filled with bugs. So why is New Orleans one of the only cities to have a well-visited Insectarium?
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We were looking at the cockroaches when a man who worked there walked by and told us that a cricket king cake had just come out of the oven down at the Insect Cafe. I was expecting a king cake that was decorated with crickets, not one that had crickets mixed into the batter before it was baked! There were free samples, and I must say it was much tastier than the other bugs I’d eaten; ants (truth or dare), flies (biking), and a spider (prank). They also had Mealworm salsa and beetle chutney, which weren’t bad, but the bugs didn’t nessesarily add to the texture.P1070116
As there are so many different beetles in the world, it makes sense that they’d have a large collection. Dung beetles, diving beetles, rhinoceros beetles, this terrifying thing…P1070166They didn’t have any bombardiers however, as it’s hard to safely keep an insect that can shoot boiling acid out of its butt.
More common than entire Insectariums are butterfly gardens,and this one didn’t disappoint. Most butterflies, including Blue Morphos, aren’t actually colorful. It isn’t pigment that makes them pop out, but microscopic holes in their wings that refract light. It sounds like science fiction, but I promise you, Smarter Every Day wouldn’t lie.
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As well as butterflies, they had a giant moth that was apparently the inspiration for the Japanese supercreature Mothra.P1070210
And for people who aren’t so much into the live bugs, there were display cases full of beetles and butterflies arranged into patterns, and of insect inspired jewlery. And, in the case of Egyptian women, live scarabs that were tethered to broches.P1070174
This museum was proof that little animals can be just as exciting, and terrifying, as the big ones, but not quite as tasty.

Homosassa Springs

The waters of Florida have been so warm this year that the manatees, who can’t survive long in water below 68 degrees fahrenheit, don’t need to find hot springs. This makes finding them difficult because they’re more spread out, and our first attempt at the powerplant outside of Tampa failed. So we went to the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. I was expecting to go there and just find a couple of manatees, but they had a whole little zoo. Technically, it’s a rehabilitation center, but most of the animals they have on display will never be able to be released to the wild, and so are on display.

They had an impressive number of birds, half of which seemed to have just wandered into the enclosures for a snack. I saw over a dozen black-crowned night herons, which have been one of my favorite birds since I did a report on them in third grade, and had never seen in real life before. I had known they had red eyes, but not this red.
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The red-backed hawks were the models of the place, posing in the light in a way that just begged you to take their picture. They were getting more attention even than the bald eagle, who had the American flag in his enclosure.P1060533
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And no one was even looking at the whooping cranes. I guess if your species’s incredible comeback from near extinction was more than a few years ago, nobody remembers or cares.P1060567

There were a bunch of mammals as well, including a panther, black bear, a couple of bobcats, and an extremely rare red wolf. The cutest was the red fox, another animal I had never seen in person before.
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P1060411Po the hippopotamus, who apparently starred in many movies during his youth, was housed there as well, but the manatees were the stars of the show. Three resident (captive) manatees are fed romaine lettuce three times daily. I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to see these guys eat. Related to elephants, their upper lip is partially prehensile, and they use this to pull food into their mouths.

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If you’re in northern Florida, I wouldn’t miss coming here. It’s a great place to see and learn about southern wildlife, and would be great for kids of all ages.

National Zoo

Giant Panda (I can't remember who this one is)

Giant Panda (I can’t remember who this one is)

The National Zoo in Washington, DC is known for it’s pandas, but I found many of the other animals more fasinating, like the fishing cat below. I caught her at the perfect moment, in the middle of a yawn.

Fishing cat turned into a yawning cat

Fishing cat turned into a yawning cat

If you have to get stabbed by a porcupine (I’m not sure why you would…), do not pick an American Porcupine. They have all these nasty barbs on the end of their spines that make it hard and painful to pull them out. Even though they look nastier, pick an African Crested Porcupine.

American Porcupine

American Porcupine

Red ruffed lemurs are one of the most endangered animals in the world, because their forests are being cut down and burned for crop fields. They are also some of the largest lemurs, apart from Indris and diademed sifakas, with eyes that look like they’re peering into your soul.

Red Ruffed Lemur

Red Ruffed Lemur

Meanwhile, this monkey’s eyes make it look like he’s been possessed by a demon.

Golden Lion Tamarin

Golden Lion Tamarin

Black footed ferrets are one of my favorite animals, and this was the first time I’d ever seen one alive and in person. Unfortunately, I never got to see it do anything but sleep, although it did turn itself around between the two times I went to go see it.
The population of these prairie dog-eating animals were once thought to be extinct, until a sheepdog found a population of only seventeen adults. Captive breeding programs brought them back, although they’re still endangered.

Black Footed Ferret

Black Footed Ferret

Meerkat

Meerkat

Mongeese (I refuse to call them mongooses) are close relatives of meerkats, and even cuter. This is a dwarf mongoose. They also had banded mongeese, which are another of my favorite animals, but they refused to come out of hiding.

Mongoose

Mongoose

I went through the reptile house rather quickly, because I am not a big fan of snakes.

Happy Iguanas

Happy Iguanas

Peekaboo Turtle

Peekaboo Turtle

Some of the last animals we saw were the lions, just as the sun was going down. Mostly nocturnal, they heralded the night with a chorus of roars that would send shivers up your spine if they weren’t contained behind a fence.

Lions

Lions

Aquariums

Catfish

Catfish

Arapiama, the largest fish in the Amazon

Arapiama, the largest fish in the Amazon

Frogfish

Frogfish

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.

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Piranhas

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.

Baltimore Turtle

Baltimore Turtle

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.

Zoe

Zoe

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.

Happy Beluga

Happy Beluga

They also had a special exhibit about amphibians. It had a large variety of poison dart frogs, as well as a giant Japanese salamander.

Giant Salamander

Giant Salamander

Frog

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.

Blubber Jellies

Blubber Jellies

moon jellies

moon jellies

Australian spotted jellyfish

Australian spotted jellyfish

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.