Saturday, November 9, 2013

Oregon Coast Aquarium - 1

From our base in Lincoln City, Oregon, we headed south to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, a world-class marine educational attraction nestled on beautiful Yaquina Bay in Newport.
The “must-see” attraction has been named by several publications as among the top ten aquariums in the nation, and almost half a million visitors pass through the gates each year.
We took a quick look at the map of the 39-acre array of outdoor habitats, buildings, and nature trails and headed past the man-made rock structures to the sea otters, sea lions, and harbor seals.
Our first stop was at the sea otters' home. There are both large and small viewing areas that allow visitors to watch these animals above and below the surface of the water.
At the morning feeding time, the white bulb at the end of the rod signaled it was time to perform for food.
[For what it’s worth: I don’t understand why we expect animals to perform human actions (a kiss, a wave) in order to be fed. Seeing these animals being themselves is far more educational and respectful of the animals than seeing them perform.]

Anyway…, from the acquariums web page: “You are looking at the largest population of sea otters in the state of Oregon. This species was hunted to extinction in the Oregon wild over a century ago, with the last known individual being killed just off the Newport Beach in 1907.
“With the westward expansion of pioneers, Sea Otters were widely targeted by trappers throughout the United States and Canada. Their unique pelts, which contain up to a million follicles per square inch, provide such good insulation that the otter does not require a layer of blubber to retain body heat as you would find in whales, sea lions and seals.
“Within decades, the otter's survival was seriously imperiled all along the Pacific coast…. The decline of the Sea Otter in Oregon had far-reaching environmental impacts. Otters control the population of sea urchins which in turn feed on the giant kelp forests offshore. Without the otters to maintain this ecological balance, the urchin population managed to destroy many of the underwater forests and the habitat they provided for innumerable species.

“Today, this marine mammal is the focus of many different conservation and recovery efforts, particularly in California and Alaska” (

Around some of the nearby rock formations were similar viewing areas for the aquarium’s sea lions and seals.

Sea lions can often be seen body surfing in the waves off the Oregon coast. They will also rest at the surface, holding a front and rear flipper out of the water in a posture known as “jugging.”

The Sea Lions particularly enjoy these interactions with human beings, often swimming right up to the acrylic barriers for a closer look.
Coloration between individual Harbor Seals varies widely, from near white to black.
The usual coloration is bluish grey with white spots and small rings. Front and rear flippers are short, and there are no external ears. Motion on land for these animals is awkward and consists of a wormlike “bouncing.”

In the water, however, seals are quick and graceful.

Following this introduction to the aquarium, it was on to other exhibits.

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