Monterey Aquarium proved surprisingly wonderful today. We’ve avoided aquariums for most of our trip on the basis that they often feature fish from home. Monterey was different (a) because it focuses on local animals and (b) because we got free tickets with our house.
We learnt a whole pile of things about marine animals in the course of the day. Sea otters eat so many urchins that the urchins colour the otters bones purple. When the sea otters were almost extinct the urchins partied and ate up all the local kelp beds, pretty much bringing the local marine ecosystem to a halt. As the otters came back they’ve controlled the urchin numbers and so the kelp forests have returned together with a vast variety of associated life.
We touched urchins, stroked sea cucumbers (not an experience I’d recommend) and felt the back of rays as they swam past. Everywhere we went amazingly friendly and well-informed volunteers provided information and advice. Declan adopted a pyramid scheme approach, scavenging information from the first to impress the second and so on, until the last one we met was convinced he was a marine biologist prodigy in the making.
We saw an albatross close up and Dec assisted the presentation by demonstrating that the albatross is far more capable of holding its arms out from its sides than he. The fish feeding seen from below was simply stunning, as were some of the unusual fish. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sun fish before: it’s about the size of a small car but is strangely truncated, it starts out like an enormous fish but just after the dorsal fin it just… stops.
Without doubt the most beautiful animals were the jelly-fish: A fine tribute to local lighting and window-cleaning.