National Aquarium

Reading this week:

  • The Beginnings of Nyasaland and North-Eastern Rhodesia 1859-95 by A.J. Hanna

My super amazing fiancée and I are big aquarium fans. So of course we can’t live in DC without eventually making our way over to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and on a lovely President’s Day Weekend we finally made it! I have many fond memories of the National Aquarium. I grew up between Baltimore and Annapolis so it was within easy reach and as kids we were of course big fans. I always thought it was really cool how the Blacktip Reef is designed, where it is kinda the bottom floor of the aquarium and you ascend upwards, gliding over the reef from higher and higher altitudes on cool escalator thingies. This is what I thought was cool as a kid and I still do.

The aquarium also has particularly impressive shark displays, which absolutely delighted my super amazing fiancée because she is super into sharks. Besides the sharks in the reef they have Shark Alley where you descend through a bunch of sharks and that is absolutely a hoot. Though I did notice (because she shared her pictures with me) that in addition to shark photos she took multiple pictures of jellyfish, which as is custom on this blog I have diligently turned into a gif:

I will also pause to highlight the aquarium’s tank of cichlids from the world-famous Lake Tanganyika! Lake Tanganyika is the second oldest lake in the world and therefore has a huge number of endemic fish species, most famously its cichlids, which used to be exported all over the world though I now I understand the market is not what it used to be. But anyways always nice to see some hometown heroes represented at the National Aquarium:

But my personal absolute favorite part of the museum is the rainforest exhibit at the very top. The aquarium just spent some time renovating all the glass and so it was all very light and airy. The rainforest exhibit was the whole reason I went to Brazil as my trip right after graduating from the Naval Academy and it was as cool as I remember it despite them no longer having the very dire-looking display showing rainforest deforestation that prompted me to go to the rainforest while I still could. This visit was probably my best visit ever to the rainforest at the aquarium actually, because we got to see sloths! The sloths I think are probably the biggest attraction in the rainforest area (though I also like the piranhas are also very cool and also acceptably good eatin’). Every time I go I try to spot them and I think I rarely if ever do. You see they are usually napping somewhere inaccessible, but this time all both sloths were napping very close to this observation platform they have, so it was possible to admire them in all their glory. This is there glory:

Fantastic isn’t it?!?!?! Anyways I was excited to see them. There were more visible animals as well, such as a large variety of birds:

The most interesting thing we learned on our visit to the aquarium is that they no longer have a dolphin show. I remember going to the dolphin show many many times in my youth and it was always the same and I always tried to sit in the splash zone. With evolving policies on the keeping of large marine mammals in aquariums they no longer have the dolphins regularly put on shows though they do apparently do regular training with the dolphins which you might be lucky enough to catch. Also interesting to learn is that they have been trying to build, for at least a decade, a new outdoor sanctuary for the dolphins. This does not seem to be going well, from what I can tell? I mean their last update was like two and a half years ago. I think I can see why though. They want a large swath of prime beachfront real estate in the tropics where they can also build a research facility and I have to imagine there can’t be too many places like that left let alone for anything resembling an affordable price, and they also note that all the likely places are also likely to be wiped out by climate change in the near future. I hope they find a spot before those dolphins just die off of natural causes though. It would be very nice for them. And I assume a very nice place to work.

So that was our day at the National Aquarium. It is an extremely nice aquarium and has lots of very educational displays and is an extraordinary way to see sharks and rays and jellyfish and cichlids and I can also say from personal experience and from our observations that day that it is extremely popular with children. But this was only the first part of our adventures that day, because we spent the whole afternoon looking at boats!!!!