Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Whale of a Welcome

We were joined by our good friend Tom Goldman from back home for a few good meals and a visit to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

We were greeted by these impressive sculptures by Randy Puckett entitled The Legacy. At the time of its installation in 1996, The Legacy was the only life size bronze sculpture in the world of any of the large whales: the Gray Whale measured 39 feet 10 inches tall, it was the second largest bronze sculpture ever cast in the U.S. This life size work features a breaching Gray Whale and calf, and the diving tail of a third Gray Whale displayed in two fountains.

Scripps was formed in 1903 when UC Berkeley zoologist William E. Ritter joined community leaders such as newspaper tycoon E.W. Scripps, philan-thropist Ellen Browning Scripps, and physician Fred Baker to charter the Marine Biological Association of San Diego, predecessor to today's institution. That summer Ritter conducted a field session in marine biology at a temporary location in the boathouse of the Hotel Del Coronado.

In 1907, the association purchased for $1,000 more than 170 acres of pristine property at La Jolla Shores from the City of San Diego at a public auction.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps opened in 1992 atop a picturesque bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Scripps Oceanography campus. The aquarium is designed around a central lobby with entrances to main interpretive areas:

Hall of Fishes, featuring about 60 tanks of Pacific fishes and inverte-brates; the largest habitat is a 70,000-gallon kelp forest (right). All the photos of the colorful marine life featured in today's entry were taken in the Hall of Fishes.

These two eels were among the first "residents" we saw. I believe they are wolf eels.

Although all the exhibits had photos that identified the sea life living in the exhibit tanks, we did not take time to identify all those we saw.

Scripps Explorers Gallery, showcasing cutting-edge discoveries of Scripps explorers in climate, earth, and ocean sciences through interactive exhibits.

Preuss Tide Pool Plaza, overlooking the Pacific Ocean with three living tide pools for hands-on discovery.

Smargon Courtyard, overlooking coastal bluffs and includes a 13,000-gallon shark reef tank and Wonders of Water exhibit stations.

Feeling the Heat--The Climate Challenge: Explores the scientific facts behind climate change and global warming, highlighting Scripps half century of climate research.

In Fall 2007, the exhibit was named the Silver winner in museum design for the 2007 Event Design Awards.

There's Something About Seahorses: Saddle up for a close encounter with the sea's most captivating creature, and learn all the unique "somethings" about seahorses. On display are a dozen seahorse species and their relatives, a seahorse nursery, and information about Birch Aquarium's award-winning efforts to conserve this threatened animal.

Wonders of Water: An exhibit of the forces behind erosion, water flow and ocean currents through interactive stations that allow visitors to create rapids, canals, dams and islands.

Shark Reef: 13,000-gallon tank devoted to shark species that inhabit tropical reef habitats, including whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks, and epaulette sharks. Interpretive panels on shark biology and conserva-tion accompany the reef.

An animated number of teens rushed from exhibit to exhibit with several sheets of paper, presumably an assignment to complete after visiting a number of displays.

It was a good day in a beautiful, informative aquarium.

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