Aquarium of the Pacific

Spotted Lagoon Jelly
The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is better than advertised, welcoming visitors into an undersea world that’s more like an animated Disney movie.

For our traditional Museum Friday escape, we chose to submerge ourselves in the Aquarium of the Pacific – doing a full-body plunge into the undersea world of Southern California’s premier aquarium. The collection features over 11,000 animals representing more than 500 different species,  including sharks, penguins, lorikeets, manta rays and all manner of psychedelic (and sometimes a little psycho) sea critters – not to mention jellies, whose liquid luminescence and nearly poetic motility mesmerized adults and children alike.

Yet, this is no child’s play. Behind the nine-inch thick Plexiglas are animals representing an exotic array of mostly endangered sea creatures that comprise but a slice of life under the world’s largest body of water. Lucky us, that ocean is right outside our door. Yet, the strange and curious creations, so carefully sustained inside the aquarium’s curated exhibits, makes our existence on land seem almost mundane, especially when looking a Unicorn Tang in the eye or watching a pirouetting collection of comb jellies perform an underwater ballet.

One of the highlights was taking a “Behind the Scenes” tour, which for an hour led us behind the doors and into the “back office” operations of the aquarium, including a sneak peek at breeding tanks and the carefully maintained filtration system that supports more than a million gallons of constantly circulating seawater. We learned that not even the top restaurants nearby get the best fish, but that the finest seafood in town goes not to Bubba Gump but straight to residents of the aquarium. We even bumped into one of the senior divers, Rich, who conducted the 3 o’clock feeding among a swarm of hungry Nemos, not to mention a few polite (to a point) tiger sharks. Later our young tourling, Ruby, got an underwater shout-out from Rich as the feeding frenzy began.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is well worth a visit, especially if you enjoy the ingenious nature of life and having your imagination tickled by jellies.


Barbara’s Impressions

As Hal illustrates in his lovely narrative, our excursion to the aquarium in Long Beach was delightful. We’ve heard much about it, from our nieces and nephews and many friends that have visited – and I was inspired by our friend (and fellow photographer) Ellen’s images of the jellies she shared on Facebook some time ago.

We enjoyed all the exhibits and the behind the scenes tour was very cool – but the jellies! Oh the jellies! I was completely mesmerized and transfixed. I was particularly taken with the tiny Umbrella Jellies: observing them in the dark tank, I felt like I was looking at a scene from outer space. Magnificent and other-worldly. The West Coast Sea Nettles churned through the current in their tank, looking like a beautiful bubbling mass. The Moon Jellies and White-spotted Jellies … so ethereal. And the Comb Jelly, with their tiny Vegas lights pulsing through their membranes. Just unreal.

If you are curious, you can learn more about the jellies at Aquarium of the Pacific.

Oh! And we had a lovely diner of Thai/Cambodian fare at Sophy’s on PCH in Long Beach. Delicious and delicate green curry (kang khiev vaan) with shrimp was my favorite. The tom kah (chicken, lemongrass and coconut milk soup) was quite good too. Yum.

All around – another lovely Museum Friday for the books.


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