I’m at the aquarium in my professional capacity. We’ve set our students an end of semester activity to plan a science excursion to the aquarium, and answer a series of questions to demonstrate that they have a clue. Some of the slack buggers have just made it up after a quick trawl through the aquarium website. But in the spirit of being one of those tutors who is there for her students, I’m at the aquarium today and tomorrow, just in case some of my little bunnies actually decide to do the activity as planned. And then get stuck.
I know it’s under a lot of construction at the moment, but I’m going to cut straight to the chase and tell you it’s not currently one of the great aquatic attractions of the world. Most of the exhibits are currently signs on hoardings with one of three themes, how terrific sharks are, don’t use styrofoam cups, or give us money.
OK, there are a few things worth looking at. The very first tank contains platypus. I do recommend standing in front of these for quite some time, ignoring the waves of buffeting schoolchildren. It takes a while for it to dawn on you exactly how weird these dudes are. They look like they couldn’t operate on land at all, and they’re always smaller than I would have expected them to be. There are little yabbies messing about on the bottom, and some desultory fish, but these are of no moment. Regard the very webbed feet, the back feet almost vestigial. The flat tail. The duckbill, for heaven’s sake. So weird.
Around a couple of corners are my some of my favourite animals. Ignore the penguins, they’re just showing off. The jellyfish are where it’s at. These ones have a constantly colour changing light shining through the tank and they really are other worldly.
“Look at them going up and down” says a passing mum to her offspring. “That’s how they breathe”. And this is why I have my work cut out for me. They actually don’t breathe at all, their skin is so thin that oxygen from the water can just diffuse straight into their cells. Yes, I did just look that up, it really wasn’t hard. Don’t start me on jellyfish, those things are so very amazing I’m tempted to move to Queensland and research them full time. Did you know that box jellyfish have no discernible brain, but will actually hunt their prey? How???
Also amazing, and disturbing at the same time is the octopus. I’m always a bit perturbed by things in tanks, but this guy looks particularly unhappy. He’s definitely watching me. His eye is blinking in this photo, but wherever he put his abundance of legs, I could see his slitted eye watching, watching, always watching.
He’s in a really tiny tank, and he couldn’t be happy. Why haven’t they got him in an adventure playground, with stuff to build with and hide inside, and friends? He’s doing circuits of the front of the tank, I feel like he’s banging on the glass, he wants to go back to Brazil. Hang on, no, that’s Harry Potter.But he is trying to communicate with me.
Yes, the rays and sharks and dugongs are cool, and the walk through is lovely, but, again, looking like too small an enclosure for those giant creatures, and the way is sometimes blocked by morbidly obese mums with their hands on their hips, or knots of perpetually self documenting tourists. There’s a tiny touch tank, with a young chap with the now ubiquitous beard and man bun, encouraging kids to touch, but DON’T PICK THAT UP!!!. Their touch pool used to be a lot bigger and less shouty. I pause to spare a thought for the Port Jackson shark, who lays what looks like really quite sharp, spiral shaped eggs. What a life.
There looks like there’s quite a bit of work being done on a Barrier Reef section, which will be quite handy once the real thing disappears, but it’s only a few flashes of colour for now. Too soon I am at the gift shop, which is full to bursting with schoolchildren in EZ Identify yellow caps, and almost all of the merchandise is, unlike the creatures they represent, fluffy.
So now I’m in the cafe. I’ve had exactly six students through, none of whom have needed my help. I’ve done a bit of committee work. I’ve started work on sketching out what we’ll be teaching in summer school next year. I’ve just realised that if I stand up to succumb to the temptations of the deep fried section I will lose my excellent spot with a good view of the entry queue and out of the draught. The sacrifices one makes.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, if you have $40 burning a hole in your pocket, there are many better ways to spend it than here. Perhaps the Wildlife world next door would be better, the young lad on the ad loop above the entrance seems to think so. I might have to give you an update once they’ve finished renovating. Meanwhile, I might beg my boss for an early mark.