Thursday, April 21, 2016

National Aquarium

I took the boys to visit the National Aquarium on Monday morning. Our tickets got us in at 9 AM and it was mostly empty, which was fabulous. The first creature we saw, surprisingly, was Margaret the Macaw.

Turns out Margaret is 27 years old and was born to a breeder in Florida, which is a good thing, because her kind are originally from Brazil and we were informed that if you get a bird from Brazil, chances are it's been stolen out of its nest. Margaret's breeder had willed her to the Aquarium, so every day for the last 10 years she's been coming to work. Because everyone comes to the Aquarium to see her. So she thinks, anyway. She says a handful of words, including her name, which blew the boys away:

Her handler asked, "who's a pretty bird?"
And that smart cookie didn't miss a beat. "Margaret!"

Liam was absolutely speechless. It was hilarious. His eyes went wide and he half jumped and half turned around in his seat to look at me. "Wow! I didn't know she could do that!"

After I pried the kids away from Margaret, we took off, trying to see as much stuff spread across five floors as we could before we had to meet Dada for lunch and head back home.

The observant among you have already noticed that this turtle is missing her front left flipper. Damon felt incredibly sorry for her, so I tried to reassure him that she was living in a safe place here in the aquarium and that would be the best possible place for her. She had lots of friends and neighbors in the humungous tank area with her, and you'll see several shots throughout this post taken from various floors.

It was neat to see how much technology could be dispersed throughout the exhibits. This one was a huge screen with six smaller touch screens in front of it. You were allowed to choose six words to describe your relationship to water and wildlife, then when you hit enter your phrase would be displayed on the huge screen in wiggly, floating-looking script. It was interesting to see how the kids really thought about what they wanted to select.

The multi-story Australian exhibit was beautiful with its tall waterfall and wall-to-wall vegetation. It was fun to see plants and birds in front of you and then to turn around on the catwalk and see Baltimore's inner harbor outside the glass with its own birds and ships. 

And, of course, we love snacking turtles. And smiling turtles.

I told Liam this was his Monday-morning face.

These little blue guys, called Yabbies, were adorable!

The jellyfish invasion exhibit was fascinating. You can see more about that in the below post with the collages. This art, though, was tremendous and fun, and made me think how easy it'd be for a kindergarten project involving paper plates and yarn and markers! (These ones were more sophisticated looking than that.)

They have a bunch of sharks way down deep in the building (above) and we even saw a shy little Nemo (below) who was tricky to get a picture of as he kept hiding in the dark!

Never mind the fact that we have frogs of our own at home, the boys insisted I take a picture of the one there. 

Damon wanted to see the octopus that he found on the aquarium map. We finally made it to the correct floor and got up close and personal. I apologize for the fuzzy pictures. I am glad that he didn't stay in one spot, though. The boys were delighted when he blooped his way across his tank and back. The boys wanted to make sure I knew that he had three hearts. Noted.

The layout was impressive. As you're strolling along catwalks, you can see straight down to previous tanks on the lower levels. Here's that turtle's reef tank again, seen from above:

And here are random shots of a whale skeleton, anemones, seahorses, you get the idea:

Damon had also been chattering about sea urchins, so we found the prickly fellow hanging out with some kind of cardinalfish who were just exquisite.

They had a touch tank for the rays:

And one for the jellies:

More fun technology implemented. These magnifying glasses were part of touch screen tables. You slide your glass (which was just a plastic frame you could stick your arm through) along the surface to find specific wildlife or litter in the sand.

The photo above shows off some of the tank that scuba divers were in, scrubbing dead coral. They informed the kids that you'd never want to touch living coral because that would destroy it, but they have to help this stuff in the aquarium by scrubbing it with little scrub brushes. 

Random critters and a Moray eel:

Also creepy, but probably not his fault. 

The electric eel tank had a voltage meter that changed color and sounded like a bug zapper according to how much wattage? voltage? whatever the eel was putting out. It was electrifying. Ha.

Liam's favorites, yellow tangs, and their buddies from "Finding Nemo" (above)

That would be Damon-with-a-caiman.

And more turtles. And fish.

And a major highlight for Liam- poison dart frogs! He so badly wanted to take these little buggers home. They are adorable, so I can't really blame him:

And some snakes. Skip this part, PaPa.

Okay, you can look now. More frogs.

See them blending into the leaves in the above picture?

More turtles, tarantulas, and a tamarind:

They even have sloths! Every single one of you who have seen "Zootopia" are now smiling. Apparently there's one in this tree. I thought I could see fuzz, but I couldn't begin to outline a shape, so use your imagination.


And everybody's favorites, dolphins!

If you're ever in the Baltimore area, go see the aquarium. A bit pricey, but splurge and spend the day. I promise that you won't regret it.