Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Big Fish

The others decided to venture out for the day, some off to new places, some just off to explore the beautiful city of Monterey. I decided to return to the aquarium, hoping the crowds had decreased by now. The morning had been somewhat chilly, forcing me to dawn a coat, but the sun had now warmed the landscape and its beating rays mixed with the cool ocean breeze created a perfect climate outside. 
We'll start with a baby sea turtle.
The crowds had lessened somewhat at the aquarium, but children still outnumbered adults, now instead of school age children it was smaller, children, most so small I feared inadvertently kicking them as I walked, my vision stuck on the amazing tanks surrounding me. I hadn't got around to seeing the big “Open Water” tank during my morning visit so I headed there first. The gigantic tank holds 1.2-million gallons of water and houses a variety of ocean species, including hammer head sharks and the massive sun fish. At times the Open Water tank has been used to house great white sharks. In fact, the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the first aquarium able to successfully keep a great white on exhibit. Unfortunately for me there was not a Great White during my visit, but the massive blue and yellow tuna and hammerhead sharks chasing a huge school of sardines around, were exciting in there own right. The tank is massive and the main display window is two stories tall, allowing one to truly appreciate the massiveness of the tank. 
Shark in the Open Water Exhibit.
I found another display window for the massive tank tucked away in an exhibit about humans impact on ocean life, needless to say this exhibit was nearly empty and I was able to enjoy the massive Open Water Tank without the commotion of the crowds. The giant sunfish floated around looking as if it shouldn’t be able to move in the water at all. it’s massive brick-like frame maneuvered by two oddly placed fins that seemed far to small to propel the fish with any agility what so ever. Here is a fact about the Sunfish I found so mind boggling that I had to put it here: a female Sunfish can produce 300 millions eggs at a time, that’s the entire population of the United States, in one ovulation. How these massive creatures, which can grown to 14ft across and weigh over 5,000 pounds, haven’t taken over the world is beyond me, but I am thankful for their reluctance to do so. 
Ocean Sunfish
The aquarium closes at, an unacceptably early, 5pm. Having spent much of the day attempting to avoid the crowd I was running out of time, I headed back to the jellies exhibit, the hypnotic pulsating of the jellies calling me back into the dark room that housed their magnificent beauty. If I were to see one of these jellies in the open water near where I was swimming I would run away screaming like a terrified toddler, but here protected by inches of thick glass I was compelled to look at their beauty up close, the closer I looked the more intricate the design became. A creature we deem as so simple, so basic, is amazingly complex, a creature we deem terrifying, that we demonize for its inadvertent sting, so graceful and so beautiful.
Tentacles of Indonesian Sea Nettle 
I decided to hurry through the exhibits I had seen earlier in the day. I had somehow missed the Giant Pacific Octopus exhibit in the fray of children early in the day. The octopus swam around his cage, his intelligent eyes looking out into the crowd. Octopuses scare me in a way wholly unlike jellies, they look evil, alien, and just the sight of them makes one realize how intelligent they really are. It’s surprising that the intelligent life, in the narrow scope of meaning human beings, developed on land and not in the sea, where evolution has been going on for so much longer and where intelligence plays a key role in almost every animals survival.
The ultra-creepy Giant Pacific Octopus. 
A baby sea turtle swam in a tank full of blow fish and other small fish attracting the attention of nearly everyone as he swam around his tank slowly, doing everything in his power to be amazingly cute. The sea otters were hiding somewhere in their exhibit when I stopped by. The penguins in the penguin exhibit had huddled up in their caves for a nap, clearly the animals in the aquarium were aware of when closing time was, choosing to nap through the last part of the day, before what I can only assume, they put on a great display for a member-less audience after hours. The sharks were still entertaining though, they had little choice in the matter, always in a constant state of movement, circling the aquarium, their thoughts hidden behind their deep black eyes. 
I left the aquarium unfulfilled, deciding to return the next day to finish up some of the exhibits I had been unable to fully enjoy during my visits on this day. I walked over to a Thai restaurant and order some food to go, taking it back to the hostel where I burned the night away mingling with my hostel-mates, enjoying the first real hostel experience I had had on this trip. It’s interesting how different others see the world, as I spoke to a girl from Holland, she spoke of her enthusiasm to go to a Walmart, and asked quite sincerely if In-N-Out Burger was better than McDonald's. Perspective is an amazing thing, making the mundane for one person pure bliss for another.  

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