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Kelp forest

Started: 2018-08-06 20:35:30

Submitted: 2018-08-06 22:41:15

Visibility: World-readable

20 June 2018: In which the intrepid narrator visits the superb Monterey Bay Aquarium, sees the kelp forest, and contemplates his supervillian lair

On Wednesday, in the middle of our week-long road trip to the central California coast, we spent the day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (This was also one of the items I had on my todo list before leaving San Francisco.)

Inside the aquarium we headed for the centerpiece exhibit, the kelp forest, finally letting us see the underwater view of what we'd only seen a shadow of from the ocean surface. The viewing area was darkened and light filtered down from the top of the massive tank, past giant kelp fronds, as innumerable fish swam back and forth.

Kelp forest at the Montery Bay Aquarium
Kelp forest at the Montery Bay Aquarium

An interpretive key next to the window identifying the fish inside, most of which I promptly forgot, except for the small, meter-long leopard shark swimming lazily back and forth, past schools of tiny fast-moving sardines. I stood, transfixed, watching the fish swim by above and around me.

Lepoard shark in the kelp forest
Lepoard shark in the kelp forest

(This is what I'd want in my hypothetical supervillian lair: a giant kelp forest of my very own, framed in reinforced concrete, so I could sit and watch the fish swim back and forth while I plotted global domination.)

Sardines swimming in an endless loop
Sardines swimming in an endless loop

I followed Calvin around through an exhibit showing the California water cycle and into the intertidal zone, and then into the petting zoo, where Calvin wasn't entirely enthralled by putting his hands into the water to touch the marine life, but I did get a chance to pet a manta ray as it glided past the shallow tank in front of me, looking like it was flying on its wing-like fins, flapping gently in the smooth water.

We met up briefly with Kiesa and Julian, then split again to look at the tropical coral reef display (where tiny brightly-colored clownfish swam in large schools and small children ran up to the glass shouting "Nemo! Nemo! Nemo!"), saw various marine life making up the coral reef.

We found an octopus hiding in the back of its tank, and followed the displays in sequence as the ecosystem moved from the deep ocean to shallower waters, where rock fish hid under the sand, past tanks where cold-water fish swam in endless cycles. We emerged in an exhibit under a pier where barnacles clung to the wood, darting out when no one was looking for a quick snack.

We met Kiesa and Julian for lunch in the on-site cafe, then I took Calvin up to the sea otter tank to stake out a good spot for the scheduled feeding. As the visitors crowded around the tanks, the rescued sea otters got the idea that they were about to be fed and began putting on a show, swimming around their enclosure, then resting on the top of the water, floating on their backs, with their paws out of the water, swimming along with their stubby flipper-legs. Interpretive signs told me that the otters like resting this way because their paws are less insulated than the rest of their bodies, so their paws get colder in the brisk water off the coast of California than their bodies.

Sea otters swimming at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sea otters swimming at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

A trio of keepers emerged into the habitat, carrying various snacks for the otters, and proceeded to narrate the otters as they fed them. The otters caught their food and set it on their bellies while they ate, looking vaguely like large cats somehow adapted to the water.

Sea otter feeding at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sea otter feeding at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

After the sea otter feeding, I took Calvin into the jellyfish exhibit, where we saw an endless variety of jellyfish puffing aimlessly by, trailing their arms and tentacles, as tourists tried to photograph them in the low light. I wondered if the jellyfish ever tied themselves in knots swimming so close to each other.

Sea nettle jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sea nettle jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The exhibit was magical, with the jellyfish seeming to glow as they were lit by off-stage lights. I considered that the stinging sea nettles might make an acceptable substitute for my hypothetical super-villain lair (with the added bonus that the jellyfish would in fact sting my enemies).

Calvin looks at tiny jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Calvin looks at tiny jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

I took Calvin to the octopus and squid exhibit, which included a clip from It Came From Beneath the Sea of a giant octopus attacking the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as several real octopus and squids and other cephalopods. Calvin enjoyed the interactive squid racing exhibit (in which one pumped water through a toy squid to try to race faster than the other squids controlled by other players). I appreciated the wide variety of cuttlefish in the displays, some of which were showing off their ability to camouflage themselves in their environment.

We went next to the deep-ocean exhibit, which centered around a giant floor-to-ceiling tank where a large number of fish and sharks swam in low light. Watching the fish swim, back and forth and around in circles, was hypnotic.

By this point it was the middle of the afternoon. Kiesa took Julian to the gift shop and emerged with a plush clownfish (several times the size of a real clownfish). She thought that Julian was ready to go, so Calvin and I met up with Kiesa and Julian on the open-air courtyard overlooking Monterey Bay (over the saltwater ponds where adventurous children in wetsuits and snorkels were being pulled around by tenders). We climbed the stairs to the top of the kelp forest tank to see where the tank was open to the air (but protected from marauding birds by a series of cables that confused the birds' ability to dive and catch fish), then looked for sea otters in the kelp forest in the bay in front of the aquarium. I took one last look at the kelp forest tank before leaving.

We got a snack at a coffee shop near the aquarium, then headed to Dennis the Menace Playground, an elaborate playground in a city park where our children amused themselves on the play equipment.

We headed back to our Airbnb in Pacific Grove and found, to my distress, that the key to the front door was missing. I had thought that I had put it in my pocket when we left in the morning, and it was no longer where it was supposed to be in my pocket. I looked all over the car and the trunk, and checked the lockbox next to the door (where I had removed the key upon our arrival a day prior) and couldn't find it. Kiesa figured out that one of the bathroom windows was open, and (with the assistance of a ladder conveniently located under the back porch) managed to climb into the window and emerge to open the front door. I checked inside and couldn't find the key there either (I had hoped that I had carelessly left it on one of the counters but my hopes proved unfounded). I searched the car again and found it under the driver's seat; the loose key had fallen out of my pocket as I grabbed my car keys and had fallen under the seat. I was relieved to have found the prodigal key, and felt rather silly that I had lost it. I immediately attached the key to my main keychain to reduce the chances of losing it again.

We ate supper at a Thai restaurant in Monterey, then returned to our Airbnb for the night.

I have a few more photos from the aquarium at Photos on 2018-06-20.

Scott Galvin, age 23, is a highly sought mentor and motivational
speaker. An avid fan of salsa, user-centric web design, and techno
music, Scott co-creates a world of love and acceptance by sharing his
vision. He enjoys helping high-tech firms define their online strategy,
and he's advised many Fortune 500 companies, including Apple Computer,
Motorola, and Sun Microsystems. As a business student, he applies his
knowledge to his own venture, Buildmeasite. Scott resides in Fort
Collins, Colorado, and drives a beat up Integra. For speaking
arrangements, call 303.944.9964
- scottgalvin.com message, 03 October 2002