Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia
I am particularly fond of aquariums and visit as many as I can. I went to the astounding Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta courtesy of Alan in May 2010. It opened in November 2005, billed as the ‘world’s largest aquarium’ of more than eight million gallons of water. The largest tank, the Ocean Voyager, is reportedly the world’s largest aquarium exhibit with 6.3 million gallons of water containing four whale sharks, two manta rays, numerous hammerheads and other species of sharks, turtles and many, many other saltwater creatures.
The Ocean Voyager tank is about twice as tall and four times as long as it looks in the photo on the left – gobsmacking.
Rebecca (an environmental educator on Jekyll Island, a barrier island quite close to Cumberland Island, south Georgia, which I visited) says the staff use some sort of contraption consisting of a long pole with a net full of krill or something similar on the end. The keeper goes out onto the tank on a sort of raft, swishes the net around in the water to release the krill, and the whale shark swims past and scoops it up. She also says ‘it’s interesting to keep in mind that if these sharks weren’t being displayed at the aquarium, they would have been someone’s dinner. The Georgia Aquarium’s whale sharks come from Taiwan, where they are served up as seafood’.
Many smaller exhibits (quite large tanks in their own right) feature various fresh and seawater habitats, like:
– the Amazon’s piranhas (I saw a TV documentary recently where it seems that piranhas only attack and strip off flesh a la Hollywood movies when there is a combination of thrashing, blood in the water and an abnormally high concentration of them, due to lakes drying up in the dry season – they are a real threat to the villagers who live on the waters there if they are not careful)
– Lake Malawi cichlids, of interest because in this lake there are thought to be something like 500 species of the cichlid family, all but five of which are found nowhere else. A lake usually has fewer species and certainly of more families of fish.
– poison arrow frogs (this one is Dendrobates azureus). What little gems these are, no bigger than the top joint of my thumb! The aquarium had many species of different colours and patterns.
– Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinerea) (the one at the back was snoozing so hard she kept sliding off her bed and almost falling into the water below; she’s wake up with a start and squiggle back onto her comfy bed, doze off and start to slide again)
– giant Pacific octopus (sleeping under a rock, as it was daytime)
– a pair of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas)
– garden eels, which live in colonies in sandy bottoms, as shown here
– weedy sea dragons, from southern Australian waters, and seahorses
and touch-pools where you can caress:
– cownosed rays (they have surprisingly soft, smooth skin); and
– horseshoe crabs (common on the US eastern seaboard).
Alan said this aquarium had been planning to have dolphins, and told me a disturbing story that is apparently true, about the documentary The Cove. I already knew that hundreds of dolphins are killed yearly in one place in Japan. Apparently these people supply some survivors (that they have caught but obviously not clubbed) to dolphin shows around the world for a couple of hundred thousand US dollars each. Not good in any way shape or form.
On a lighter note: I wish I had taken a photo of the sign at the front door, warning patrons not to take in a list of offensive objects, like guns, drugs, knives and gum!