Mote Marine

Reading this week:

  • Child of All Nations by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
  • The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell

A lot has happened, faithful reader(s), since last week’s post about New York. Sort of anyways. We’re in blog time now, which has only a tenuous grip on events as they happened. In our blog timeline, only last week my super amazing girlfriend and I were in New York, spending some time before graduation to try to enjoy our New England environs. In between that blog post and this one, we have both graduated from Yale University. We have also packed up our apartments, loaded them onto a U-Haul without any help besides the two of us, driven that U-Haul to her parent’s place, dropped all that stuff off, hung out for a few days, gotten a bus to Boston, and there gotten on a plane to Florida, where we are hanging out at my grandma’s place. We are hanging out at my grandma’s place not only because she is the world’s greatest grandma (I think I gave her a relevant mug one time to prove it), but also because she has a guest room in her house which is in turn located VERY NEAR indeed to the beach. We are on a month-long beach vacation to imagine that like most of my family at this point we, too, are retired, before plunging back into the world of reality and work, luckily for the both of us in government employ.

You are now caught up to speed! One of the first places we went (besides the beach) here in Florida was the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. Mote Marine is a special place! I have visited somewhere between several and many times before, given that it is fairly close to where my grandma lives and also a pretty neat place to go. This visit, however, is the fist time I visited since learning that it was founded by Eugenie Clark. I learned about Eugenie Clark when I picked up at a used bookstore her book Lady With a Spear. The book is about her early life and career as a trailblazing marine biologist. I enjoyed it very much and then put it on my bookshelf. Some time later, I started dating my super amazing girlfriend. For much of her youth, she too wanted to be a marine biologist. I was therefore excited to give her my copy of Lady With a Spear, hoping very much she would enjoy it. She did! Turns out my super amazing girlfriend had also owned for years Eugenie Clark’s second book, The Lady and the Sharks. My super amazing girlfriend had obtained this book when she had visited Mote Marine some years back. We (she) at some point had put all the pieces together of our connection with Eugenie Clark and Mote Marine, and were excited to go back on this visit.

Mote Marine is a pretty nice place! It is split into two parts in two buildings. The main building is more of a traditional aquarium sorta thing. When we approached on this day we were sternly warned by a very nice employee out front that we might want to start with the other building. The main building, she explained, was currently overrun with a collection of kids from a summer camp, and she suggested avoiding them for the time being. So we went to the second building.

The secondary building at Mote Marine had long been their more animal rescue-focused section. You’ll note from the name Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and it’s founding by a world-renowned shark researcher that the raison d’etre for the place was really animal research and then also marine animal rescue. Since I was at Mote Marine last, the secondary building, as far as I can recollect, as become a lot more “slick.” It used to have I think a much more utilitarian vibe, but now the animals feel more on display rather than just being housed. But you can get rather up close and personal with some rescued sea turtles (see above), and since I was last at Mote they’ve also gained some crocodilians and some aggressively cute otters. The picture at the top is of one of the two manatees they have this side. Given how much they eat maybe it wasn’t so special that we got to see them eat, but I did enjoy watching the manatee shove cabbage into its mouth with its flippers.

Having given the summer camp ample space to get their fill of fishy sights, we head over to take in the main aquarium. They got all sorts of fish, and for a long time the main draw for me was Molly the Mollusk, an at this point long-dead but well-preserved giant squid. It was pretty amazing to me to think about how much we’ve learned about giant squids between the time I first saw Molly and now. Now they film these guys in the wild pretty regularly, you know? My super amazing girlfriend’s favorites however, much like Eugenie, are the sharks. Mote Marine has a rather large shark tank where you can observe sharks swimming around from both above and below. I guess gifs are just my aquarium thing now, and instead of recording the sharks in the shark tank I recorded the school of fish swimming around in a mesmerizing circle:

I was also excited to watch the octopus they had in its own tank. We must have caught it around feeding time, because this guy was way more active than I usually see them in exhibits:

All in all a lovely day. We saw plenty of fish and other animals, got to hang out at the place Eugenie Clark founded, had a lovely lunch at the aquarium’s café, and avoided being totally mobbed my hordes of summer camp kids. Not a bad time!