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Oceanus Crew Visits the Aquarium of the Pacific

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Submitted by Brandon Ford

GPS Coordinates to the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California: 33.7621508, -118.1969811

On March 9, we moored Oceanus in Long Beach at Rainbow Harbor, which is next to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Our friend at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Marsh Myers, introduced us via email to Dave Bader, the Director of Education at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Dave arranged for us to see the Long Beach aquarium and even got us a behind-the-scenes tour.

Even though the Aquarium of the Pacific is larger, it is similar in many ways to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Both are excellent at presenting the marine life at their door step — the central and southern California coast in the first instance and the Oregon coast in the second — but the Long Beach aquarium has a broader mission representing the whole Pacific Ocean. They accomplish this mission using exhibits focus on specific places that represent the dynamic range of habitats and the creatures that live there.

Video: Highlights of the Aquarium of the Pacific

The Blue Cavern Habitat is modeled after the Blue Cavern Point, an underwater cavern along the Northeastern coast of Santa Catalina Island, which is just across the water from Long Beach. The Amber Forest exhibit represents the creatures that live in the kelp forests of the California coast. Many of them would be familiar to visitors of the Oregon Coast Aquarium, like the blue rockfish and other rockfish, steelhead, and the schools of Pacific mackerel. One fish that stands out as different, however, is the iconic Garibaldi, California’s official state fish. It is bright orange with an attitude. I have had Garibaldi come up to me while diving and attack the faceplate of my diving mask.

Aquarium of the Pacific’s broader focus, and larger size, allows them to feature creatures from several corners of the world’s largest ocean. South American penguins, the tropical reef fish, coral and invertebrates of Indonesia, the archipelago of Palau, and Hawaii. The exhibit on Hawaii was familiar and special to Virginia and I because we have both logged many dives on the Big Island, Maui and Lanai. We also plan to visit all the major Hawaiian islands as part of our voyage.

Another exhibit of special interest to us was Mexico’s Gulf of California (or Sea of Cortez), which we plan to visit in the next month or so. It is one of the most biologically diverse seas in the world and home to many unique species found nowhere else, like the Cortez rainbow wrasse.

During our behind-the-scenes tour I found that the two aquariums are more alike than different. Both have ultra-clean food preparation areas where the staff prepares restaurant-quality seafood for the creatures in their care. Both have an active volunteer dive program with more than 160 divers at Long Beach. Both aquariums also have extensive jellyfish exhibits that require a lot of room behind the scenes for propagation and feeding. One noticeable difference at Long Beach is the many sea horse and sea dragon exhibits that require staff to raise live food and breed seahorses behind the scenes.

If you’re in the Long Beach area, you might consider visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific. There’s so much to see and it promises to be a fun and educational experience for all!

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