Day 9 :: 29 January 2007 :: Long Beach
aka "Aquarium Day!"
So we got up bright and early to pack up the Tribeca again, as we were planning to get a motel room and then head out on Tuesday since Vanessa had to work. Plus, it would give us extra time to get up to Monterey.
Anyway, we headed into Long Beach again via the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. There was only 1 egret that we saw, but it made sense when Bonnie had said that this was the wrong time of year to see them. We did manage to see a crapload of these little black ducks with white bills. No idea what they were, but they were neat looking. And as we headed up to Long Beach to the aquarium, we saw a golden eagle in a treetop along the more northern edge of the BCW. Way kewl!
In Long Beach, Jenn drove me past the apartment building she'd been living in when we first met back in late 2000. We saw the Queen Mary, but didn't take a tour. Jenn says it's some sort of "curse" that she never takes the tour or something. We saw the Long Beach lighthouse as we were going into the aquarium. Very nice, got some pretty shots.
The Aquarium of the Pacific, aka the Long Beach Aquarium, is perhaps one of the kewlest aquariums I've ever been in. When we were taking shots of the LB lighthouse, we also got some shots of a neat "wave fountain" thing. And we decided to pay the extra $10 each to get a behind the scenes tour of the aquarium, as we'd wanted to plan that for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but couldn't justify the $75 for the tour guide for just 2 of us.
[Just a quick note, a lot of the info we learned on the BtS tour will be interspersed in here when I talk about the stuff we saw.]
When we first walked into the aquarium, we were met with what I assume was a lifesized statue of a Great White shark hanging from the ceiling. We also got our picture taken upon entering [which we later bought because I'm so frakking clichéd tourist like that]. The walls and ceiling of the building didn't have any straight edges, everything was curved to simulate waves. The ceiling itself was constructed with 3 different styles, representing the 3 types of exhibits they had: tropical pacific, northern pacific, and southern/baja pacific. We looked at the 2 ½ story tank on the far end [after seeing the lifesized blue whale and newborn calf also hanging from the ceiling]. There were 3 divers in the tank, feeding the fish and cleaning the tank. There were a lot of really pretty fish, including a mated pair of giant sea bass that they were hoping would reproduce.
Outside, we headed for the shark lagoon to see the feedings. There were sting rays, bamboo sharks, epaulet sharks, and horseshoe crabs in the two smaller petting tanks. And there were some bigger beasties in the deeper tank behind that was not a touch/petting tank. We could only use 2 fingers to pet the sharks, which kind of bummed me out, as I'd been able to pet with my whole hand at the Underground Aquarium at the Mall of America last August, but I did as I was told. Jenn got to pet the sting rays and the bamboo sharks. Me? I was petting the epaulet sharks. They've got spots on them, so it made me giggle to have "Spotty petting a spotty shark." *hee* Jenn said the sting rays felt slimy. I didn't remember that, but that's okay. When I went in to pet the epaulet shark, I didn't realize just how deep the little petting pool was and got my sweatshirt sleeve more than a bit soaked, and I had it pushed up around my elbows! We also saw some rays looking like they were attacking the sides of the tank. We found out that when the rays are doing that, they're actually trying to climb up over the obstacle in front of them. It was fascinating to watch and understand what they were doing.
There was a great kids play area that I know Will would absolutely adore. We passed that on the way over to see the harbor seals and sea lions. The harbor seals were being flirty teases and wouldn't stay still enough for me to get any decent pictures. The sea lions OTOH were quite enjoyable to watch as they played with and chewed on ice cubes. Then we went by one of the touch tide pools, and I got to pet a sea hare. Just as squishy/slimy as a sea cucumber, too. And we got to see the shark rays and more sting rays.
The fish in the southern/baja pacific were neat, but I was more interested in the northern pacific exhibits. There were really neat wave tanks on either side of us when we first went thru the entrance, completely with a mist-simulated ML. [Hi, fake!ML!"] We got to see a giant octopus breathing at us. How frakking kewl that was! And the sea otters… Oh, those were so fun! Especially the one that was just about orgasmic in the pile of ice cubes/chipped ice. It was frakking hysterical!
We started going thru the tropical pacific area [including seeing a little horseshoe crab that got stuck to the filtration system, then got loose and decided to float/swim upside down for a while] when we had to leave for our BtS tour. Our tour guide was Gwen, and we were joined by Liam and his mom Lisàn, who was actually replaced by Liam's grandmother [because Liam's younger brother was being a PITA]. We got to go thru the ARC [aquarium resource center], where we got to see displays they use on fish and sharks, including touching a piece of baleen. We also went into a classroom with a smaller touch tank and I got to pet a little horned shark. Gwen gave us a show with the archer fish by putting pieces of shrimp/krill on the plexiglass above the tank and letting them shoot the pieces down. These were little guys, but their aim was still pretty damned impressive.
We went outside and got to see the bearcats [I've forgotten the real name] that give off a scent of buttered popcorn. It's utterly bizarre! And there were the lorikeets. Frakking noisy little bastards! We went past the shark lagoon to head behind a "mystery fence," where we got to see a lot of the water cleaning and filtration tanks, as well as quarantine [Jenn got to see the baby bonnetheads, but I was too short to see them], temperature regulation, sand filters ,and the cogeneration area. We got to see the food prep and veterinary areas before taking the service elevator to the 3rd floor [employees only], where we got to talk to one of the main divers. He reminded me of a combination of R. Lee Ermey and Lorre's dad, only more softspoken. CMU!
We got to go above the tropical tanks, complete with having to use the foot bath stations. There were some huge rays, sharks, unicorn fish, trigger fish, and sea turtles, among other things there. Sea turtles, man! The one we saw at first was being shy and staying down near the bottom, but I still squealed like a 4yo. We got to see some of the shark egg sacs as well as 3 different sizes/stages of baby sharks. The best part of the tour? We got to walk around to the far side [near where we'd started in this particular room] and stand over the tunnel below and feed the fish!!! The unicorn fish and trigger fish [among others] knew exactly what we were there for, and just massed up and waited for us to start throwing the pieces of nori. The smaller side of the tank [other side of the tunnel] had another sea turtle in it, but again very shy. And then, Gwen pointed out that the first sea turtle was swimming up toward the surface. With her permission, Jenn, Liam, and I ran over there to take pics. The sea turtle actually popped his head up out of the water, like he was saying hi to me. SO frakking kewl!
We went on with our tour and saw some really neat Finding Nemo plaques in the back, detailing some of the fish we'd seen, while we were on our way to the "mad scientist's lab," aka the feeding area. We got to see brine shrimp, plankton growing in there for future food sources, as well as some goldfish. After that, we saw the sea kraits and the sea horses. Oh, I thought Jenn was gonna die of squee at the sea horses. We saw all shapes and sizes/ages of sea horses. A woman named Jen, one of the aquarists in charge was there acclimating some baby sea horses. The little guys were 10 days old and they were in a 5 gallon bucket for their acclimation. They were so frakking tiny!!!
After the tour, we went back to finish out the tropical pacific exhibits, with a much keener eye and far more interest, now that we'd seen the animals from a viewpoint that most people don't. And I got to see the sea turtle that was in the smaller tank side of the tunnel.
The last thing we saw was the deadly & dangerous exhibit, which had a lot of poisonous creatures. I got to see 4 different life stages of moon jellies [which I love!]. There were two different rattlesnakes, but neither was an Eastern or Western Diamondback. I was kind of bummed. The larger of the two, that I first mistook for an ED/WD, was a southern pacific rattlesnake. The other one [whose name I'm totally blanking on atm] was smaller and stretched out atop a small sage/tumbleweed bush. Really gave me a new appreciation for the sage bushes I sometimes harvest from...
There was much shopping and purchasing of souvenirs. My favorite purchase? A big harbor seal stuffy that looks to be lifesized for a pup. I named him Jitter. My cashier was kind of a cranky bitch, but whatever. Because we'd done the BtS tour, we got 10% off our purchases and we got a free gift, which was a neat little magnet [we each got one].
Once the aquarium was done, we got our motel room at the Vagabond Inn, just a couple miles from the water. This was a horrid, horrid hotel! Jenn wrote a letter of complaint about it because of the safety and usability issues she found: major bump of over an inch getting from floor to elevator, grossly dirty shower [ie. grout wasn't waterproof], hideously small parking lot [accidents waiting to happen], the toilet area was created for a frakking Barbie [and the granite countertop dug into hips/ribs/underarm area while using it], and the shower had no water pressure [a tilted watering can has more].
Once we had the room, we went to meet with up with Mark, John, and Kerry. It was very kewl to finally be able to meet both "It's all John's fault" and Kerry, who I've heard about ever since I'd met Mark because of the stories of their legendary games of Spite and Malice. I also got to meet their son [aka John2], who is utterly adorable! John took us to a little Italian place around the corner for dinner, which was pretty good, and then we took food back for Mark and Kerry, who'd stayed behind with the still-recovering John2. And oh the stories… I didn't say much that night, but I soaked up all the stories they were telling. It was lovely! As we were getting ready to leave, Mark gave Jenn a present that pretty much made her girlie-squeal. He gave her the Klaive. It's something that he's had for many years now that is related to the Werewolf game they used to play. Needless to say, it made Jenn's night.