Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shedd Aquarium Visit

Today was another delightful afternoon to remember along with my other family stories. My son, Jason, and his two kids, Alex and Nicholas, ages 6 and 7 respectively, met me at Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago. I hadn’t been there for some eighteen years or so, and it was nice to see how many new exhibits had been created.

Everyone’s favorite was the Caribbean Reef, which is an award-winning 90,000-gallon circular habitat open on all sides to allow patrons to walk around and view the huge variety of fish, including gigantic tarpons, Moray eels, parrotfish, sting rays, manta rays, and many more I don’t know the names of.

At the appointed hour, a docent named Lee arrived and asked the surrounding crowd to step back “five giant steps” to outside the blue circle marked on the floor so everyone could see clearly. Amazingly, everyone complied, which was a pleasant surprise, and we had ideal seats for the entire show.

A diver named Brooks entered the water to feed the sea creatures and interact with them. He stroked the manta rays and turtles as they calmly approached to feed from his hand. Another pleasant surprise was that Lee fielded questions from the crowd and relayed them to Brooks for a response.

Alex, my granddaughter, asked if they remove the stingers from the sting rays. The answer is no, they don’t. However, Brooks said the one ray swimming around without a tail was due to a fish that liked to nibble on its tail, until the tail was finally gone.

Brooks talked about the big green sea turtle named Nickel. He was injured by the motor on a boat and brought to special veterinarians for repair. Severely damaged hind flippers meant he’ll never be released back into the wild, but he’ll always have a good home at Shedd. How did he come by his name? When the doctors took x-rays, they found something stuck in his throat: they removed an old 1975 nickel, so that’s what they called him.

Nicholas liked a huge old lungfish called Granddad. He had black spots all over his long body. According to the Shedd website, “Granddad has lived longer than any fish in any aquarium in the world.” He came from Australia as a mature adult to Shedd for the World’s Fair in 1933!

Some of the other animals we saw were fogs, jellyfish or “jellies”, dolphins, sea otters, penguins, and small turtles.

We all had fun while we learned something new about the sea life all around us. This is one place we’ll need to visit again. There was too much to see in one day, plus the exhibits change on a regular basis.

Have you been to an aquarium recently? If so, what did you like best?

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