Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fake tidepools, moon jelly, and giant Japanese crabs - Oregon trip

The Oregon weather was rainy and cold sometimes and just plain cold other times during our trip. Every so often, there would be flashes of sunshine with no wind and in those times, we went to the beach. We were lucky to be inside or eating lunch every time it was raining and we learned quickly to enjoy the non-raining time, cold or not, outside.

On this day, we were planning to go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport and it was a perfect day to be inside with sporadic heavy showers.

This wall art showed the wing spans of different birds.

The large blue bird above Gray is a White Pelican. It was fun to see that wingspan since we see those birds near where we live. The largest bird on there was the gray silhouette just above the pelican. It's a Wandering Albatross and it has the longest recorded wingspan of any bird - this silhouette was 12 feet across. Impressive - and a bit intimidating - but not nearly as intimidating as another 'world's largest' animal we saw later that day.

The first exhibit we saw was unusual and so interesting. It was meant to illustrate how sea life can adapt to human involvement. The pillars you see represent the pillars of docks on the coast - they were covered with life. There were things on the floor of the tank like discarded cement pieces and an old tire - no outright trash, like candy wrappers - and they were covered inside and out with different life forms. It's not good or pretty, but the animals work with what they have.

Another really fascinating thing for Hannah about the above exhibit was the shape of it and how that affected what she could see. It was an oval and that hid some animals at certain angles and revealed others at surprising angles. She must have circled that thing 17 times, finding different animals.

The hands-on tidepool was by far the biggest draw for all of the kids there. The entire aquarium is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, most of whom are retirees. And they love kids, so they all want to be working at the tidepool.

The tidepool had two sections - the starfish/anemones and the urchins/crabs/clams/mollusks/sea cucumbers. They were separated by a rock wall so that the starfish wouldn't hunt the animals on the other side.

They showed us how the starfish eat and it was fascinating. They open up the animal they want to eat (if it's a clam or mollusk - the sea cucumbers and crabs they just climb on top of) and then, instead of ingesting it through a mouth and sending it on down to their stomach, they put their stomach into what they want to eat. Am I explaining it well enough? Strange creatures. We saw some extra large starfish in another tank along with some huge 'sun stars'.

This tank full of moon jellyfish was beautiful - the picture simply can't do it justice. The lighting in the room was dark and the lighting in the tank was blue and the jellies were white and it was hypnotizing.

This next tank could freak you out pretty easily. It's the world's largest crab, the Japanese Spider Crab.

And that crab that's looking like it wants to eat Gray is just a baby. These suckers can live to be 100 years old and grow to 12 feet (leg span). There were a few larger ones in the tank (about 6 foot leg spans), but they stayed farther back from the glass.

We learned that these used to be more common in the shallow waters around some Japanese islands but they're so rare there now that they're having to go farther and farther out and down to find them. At what point do humans not say "If we've depleted them so much, maybe we should hold off for a bit."?

Outside there were sea lions and seals...

(very bored sea lions and seals) and sea birds. This one's a tufted puffin.

In a few weeks, they're going to have babies there. Little tufted babies. I do squee sometimes. I'd squee for that.

Then we went back inside to the shark tunnel. In this exhibit, you walked through a tunnel with sharks swimming above, around, and beneath you - parts of the floor were glass so that you could see them swimming below you.

They had several types of sharks and rays.

This exhibit was Flat Kathryn's favorite - no danger of getting wet (she was understandably nervous about that after our first beach trip) or eaten (she was understandably nervous about that after having met my goats when she first arrived) - and she got to see a leopard shark!

This huge shark jaw belonged to the Megalodon Shark, a prehistoric ancestor of today's shark that makes Jaws look like a temper-tantrum throwing toddler of a shark.

They said that the Megalodon Shark was bigger than a bus and weighed up to 100, 000 pounds.

This antique diving helmet was set up for people to put their head inside and get a feel for how that would feel.

It was small.

This is the moment that Ains decided that she definitely wasn't a mermaid. She didn't want to have to wear one of these things because "I've lived on land too long, Mommy, so I can't bweathe by myself unduhwatah. I would have to weah this and I don't like it. It makes me cwazy."

Her daddy did fine in it. (I find it hilarious that his hat and sunglasses are on top of it.)

But I would go crazy in it too. I was claustrophobic before my head was all the way in it.

After visiting everything they had to offer inside and out, we took a walk around the perimeter and stumbled on this lovely kid's playground with animal statues.

We stayed at this park for over an hour. Something happened to Ains here. Her life turned into a musical. It was like something out of South Pacific.

"Some enchanted evening ...."

I'm just kidding. It was mostly mermaid singing with some improvised toddler show tunes about aquatic life thrown in.

Hannah tried to involve her in her underwater dolphin race ...

which she would have lost since she had a passenger, but Ains wasn't biting.

She was singing a beautiful mermaid song.

Gray thought they were all nuts.

Hannah challenged him to a 'Tortoise and the Dolphin' race. He cleaned her clock. It was the extra weight.

There was another little girl at the playground with her mother and grandmother. They sat on the benches watching our kids play and she seemed shy, so Hannah came and asked her to play. The adults encouraged her, and she had fun sitting side-saddle on the dolphins, but when the game got more energetic and she tried to stand on the dolphin's back, they pulled her away saying "We don't climb on the animals, sweetie. Some people behave that way in public, but we don't." And they left. I had to explain that to Hannah, and to be honest, it confused me. This was a clearly labeled park with animals clearly designed for children to play on. I would have liked to understand their point of view better. (ETA: About an hour after I posted this, out of the blue this paragraph came back to me and I thought "That's funny. It's a bit like the South Pacific song "They've got to be taught." Just a bit, but it was still an interesting similarity with my joke above about Ainsley singing South Pacific songs.)

After the playground we went .... back to the fake tidepool. For an hour. I visited the bookstore. That tidepool was a lot of fun, but the bookstore was too. Then we went to feeding time for the seals and sea lions and they didn't look so bored after all. They were having a lot of fun. We walked back to the truck in the sun, opened up the tailgate, made sandwiches, it started to sprinkle, so we climbed in the truck, ate our sandwiches and drove to Cobble Beach. By the time we got there, the rain had stopped and we were ready to explore. It was great timing.

I'll tell you about that tomorrow. It's late and I am so tired and Cobble Beach deserves its own post.


Diane said...

Looks like a great time was had by all. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Goodwife said...

Such a wonderful family trip you had!

affectioknit said...

FUN! I love the diver's helmet!