Another well-slept night. Looks like I’m adjusting. Bought Globe, in hopes that it’d state where the St. Patrick’s day parade is. Nope. No information. Probably it’s common knowledge for everybody else. Well, I’ll bump into it or then I won’t.
Back to Long Wharf, to see Cameron’s new movie and to visit the aquarium.
The latter first, though I buy a combo ticket that includes the movie as well, since the shows have been steadily sold out lately. The New England Aquarium is a largish cubical building, that houses a huge seawater tank at its center, flanked by four penguin enclosures at the bottom, and the sides lined with smaller tanks.
In addition to the regular inhabitants, there’s a temporary exhibit that concentrates on jellyfish, ie. medusas. A dozen or so big tanks filled with nothing but water and the creatures themselves, as the fragile animals don’t really co-exist that well with static decorations such as corals and rocks. The display is nothing short of magnificent, the subdued light of the aquaria brings out the colors of the creatures, and their undulating movements tend to be on the hypnotic side. This is the first time I’ve seen so many species in one exhibit, and the view is indeed captivating. Too bad the place is invaded by schoolkids, whose noise pretty much shatters the tranquillity of the place immediately. But apart from the noise, they’re pretty well-behaving bunch, and refrain from the usual tricks of tapping the glass and suchlike. Anyway, based upon the released images of the Aliens of the Deep, there’s plenty more jellyfish yet to come…
The building is indeed dominated by a huge sea tank, whose 200000 gallon capacity and contents can be viewed from three levels, as well as from directly above. It contains around 120 species, from sharks, rays and turtles to way smaller creatures.
The penguin pool is divided into three separate enclosures, each housing a different species. The birds were being fed, one herring at a time. The male (I assume) rockhopper penguins were making quite a
noise, hooting and hollering and filling the big hall with sound. Before witnessing the source I was pretty sure it was a loud seal instead. According to descriptions on the pools, all penguins can make loud noises, a fact that has escaped my notice utterly thus far.
The rest of the building is filled with smaller tanks. Their contents range from traditional (a bored electric eel, couple of reefs, Amazon recreations [piranhas, a sleeping anaconda]) to the expected (several local biotopes from the New England coast and rivers) and a couple of more novel displays (bioluminescent animals). Missed sea otters, since signage in the building was not really of the optimal kind.
The “biggest creatures of the Aquarium” are not available for viewing before april. Too bad, would have been a very interesting afternoon. Took a smaller scale whale safari in Victoria, British Columbia (like, Canada’s west coast), and that was a great experience. Saw a few Orcas, two Humpback Whales (a mother and her calf) and a couple of dolphins during the three hour zodiac-cruise in the Juan de Fuca strait. Especially the humpbacks up close were an awesome display of animal power. And the sea is just so much closer when you’re sitting in a rubber boat as opposed to a ship or an airplane.
On to the IMAX-theatre next door. Where there are even more kids. A lot more kids. Noise dies down when the Aliens of the Deep movie starts. And what a movie it is. Even the conditions are unorthodox. The screen is IMAX-sized and the movie is shot and shown in 3D, with blue/red-accessory glasses handed out to every viewer. And it is indeed nothing less than breathtaking, after it overcomes the surprisingly slow start. But once the stars of the show, the critters of the deep (fish, invertebrates, and all kinds of weird animals), enter the picture the mood changes. The movie just celebrates the ability to view the animals – in scenes that seem to be a glorious mix of Jacques Cousteau with Timothy Leary. Towards the end the movie strays from deep sea exploration to pure science fiction, and is capped by a very over the top scene. But all in all, the 45 minutes or so contain so much distilled sense of wonder that such shortcomings (odd ending, too many mugshots of the director himself) are overcome. Yeah, this is a four star movie, but I expect the inevitable dvd to be both longer and deeper in content.
Had lunch at Cheers, though not the original, but replica conviently located in Faneuil Hall. Decent burger, good clam chowder for appetizer, but worrisomely the Sam Adams from tap is served in a plastic Bud Light mug.
During the aquatic exploration the city has slowly been filling out with people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Most are wearing green, in either subdued fashion (t-shirts) or leaning towards the extreme (fake bright green afros). Even the ever-present japanese tourists milling around have been clued in to the day, and display token shamrocks on their clothes. The crowd seems to be pleasantly sober, but according to all reports, this will be changing as the day progresses.
One more new record store on the way back to the hotel: Strawberries. Five floors, which are small. Seems to be like Rasputin Music in San Francisco, albeit this is better organized. Pick up a couple of cds: Death Angel’s Act III is a steal at ten bucks, and Dropkick Murphys seems to be the locally worshipped irish band – a live album is probably a good way to get to know them. Manage to instantly nullify my meager street cred by asking the clerk what’s the music they’re playing in the store (nicely aggressive poguesish melody mixed with rough vocals), and he wordlessly points towards the Murphys cd I’m holding… Well, live and learn. And there was no-one else at the same counter anyhow.