Today I spent a wonderful afternoon at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Talk about an incredible facility. I called the Director on Wednesday and informed him that I was in Baltimore and I had some free time on Saturday afternoon. I would love it if they could arrange a tour of their facility for me. 90 minutes later I received a return phone call telling me that one of their senior divers would be coming in special for me on Saturday at lunch to give me a tour of any area I would like to see.
My friend Michelle, who lives here and is a DiveBuddy member, agreed to join me. I hardly had to twist her arm to hang out with me all afternoon when she found out I had scored us a private tour of the facility. See, I can be good for something.
Mike, our incredible guide, met us at the security entrance and escorted us to the front door. We started in the waterfall and jungle type environment where we saw birds and snakes and assorted other creatures. We started to see tanks and I saw all kinds of animals in tanks. Mike explained that the aquarium is set up in order from fresh to salt with increasing degrees of salinity in the tanks. So just like in nature, if you started at the source of the river and worked your way to the deep ocean - this was the order the tanks were laid out.
The displays were clean and vibrant. Everything was laid out and the people were great. Watching the kids smile and gawk at various exhibits was invigorating and reminds me why we dive to bring back pictures to show to our friends. The National Aquarium focuses on blending conservation and education into all of their exhibits. Each tank has a message about how conservation can help further the lives of wild versions of whatever is inside. The aquarium had a large group of non fish too. We saw an incredible amount of birds. There were a few snakes. Some large furry spiders here and there. Coral and anemones. The major attraction for most people was the large tank with a few sharks and bunches of sting rays. You could watch from above or go to lower levels and see the animals play through the glass.
This aquarium is also large enough that they had shows too. We went to the auditorium and watched the Dolphin Experience. The trainers were vibrant and with their dolphins they put on a comical show demonstrating what the Atlantic Bottle Nose Dolphins were capable of.
There was also a 4D theater. We watched a show talking about our world underwater. The fourt dimension was the water that squirted you in the face when the dolphin splashed at you on screen in 3D as well as the little whip that nipped at your ankles when the 3D octopus reached a long tentacle out at you. This aquarium was more than just a few tanks of fish. It was a complete ecological display with a focus on actually educating the guests.
Mike knew most everything about everything. I totally enjoyed having his as our guide. We checked out the back areas of the aquarium to include the dive locker, the catwalk where they feed the sharks, the kitchen where all the food is prepared and the infimary on site.
Calypso is the name of the 3-finned turtle they rescued. Calypso hangs out in the main exhibit tank with a huge number of rays and a few sharks. Calypso has an incredible diet. The turtle enjoys 1 green pepper and 6 heads of lettuce in a daily meal. Don’t forget the brussel sprouts. Those are like little bon-bons to Calypso.
If you find yourself with a spare afternoon I would highly recommend a trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s located in the harbor district. Right outside is a WWII submarine, the USS Constellation - an American warship that saw service in keeping our nations shipping safe from pirates as well as the Civil War, and the USCGS Taney - a Treasury Class Coast Guard Cutter and billed as the last survivor of Pearl Harbor. For those of you who dive Key Largo you’ll know that two sister ships the Bibb and the Duane are great wreck dives. Plan a day of it. We got there at 1330h and went out for dinner afterward at 1730h. The weather cooperated and after dinner we walked the harbor.
If anyone has any comments or questions about this aquarium venue shoot me a note. I’ll gladly tell you about the day in further detail to answer any questions. I’m looking to come back to Baltimore in August and at that point I’ll put in a request to join them on a dive in their tanks. I’ll also ensure that we have a camera in tow to make a photo montage of the day.