At the Aquarium

Now, part three (part the last) of my photo travelogue:

After the family reunion in Berkeley (our trip was - alas - far too short to do any serious poking around the Bay area), D and I parted ways with my parents. They headed north, and we headed south along the coast to Monterey before cutting inland to take the desert highway into LA. (Incidentally, the drive over the mountains into LA from this highway was one of the more extraordinary road trip experiences I have ever had - so steep that you are legally advised to turn your air conditioning off to keep the car from overheating on the narrow roads, and 100 degrees after the sun has gone down.)

We were eager to get back to Monterey because (what with our elephant seal addiction, and our eagerness to see otters in the wild at Point Lobos - which we did) we had run out of time on the trip northwards, and were forced to skip the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Now, the Aquarium is egregiously expensive to visit, and particularly remiss in not offering more substantial discounts to seniors and students (the discount is $2 off of a $25 admissions fee; if we had gone with my parents it would have cost nearly $100), but I haven't been in at least fifteen years, and I had named it as my most anticipated activity of the trip while we were in the planning stages. It did not disappoint.

While we were in Berkeley, I had worked myself up into a positive frenzy of anticipation for the Aquarium's otter exhibits, a veritable otter fever, but once in Monterey I discovered that some of the most extraordinary creatures were (I can't believe I am saying this) plankton and jellyfish

The tanks are perfectly designed to show off the otherworldliness of these creatures. My favorite in the picture above is the giant sunfish attempting to hide its massiveness in the bottom left corner.

And, then, the otter madness descended, courtesy of these lively wee freshwater otters.  It was incredibly difficult, with my caliber of camera, to get a picture of these sprightly creatures that was actually in focus. Usually, by the time my shutter had clicked, the otters were nowhere in sight. Bah.

There was something incredibly peaceful, even about the more terrifying of the creatures on display, like this stunning leopard shark:

In the penguin area, this lady was trying doggedly to clean the habitat, but some of her be-suited charges were as recalcitrant as congressmen. She finally had to pick this fellow up, to move him out of the way of the hose, but he struggled so mightily in her hands that he ended up falling flat. It was quite the piece of slapstick, but he was fine in the end.

I wish I could have these sand dollars printed out on a large scale, so that I could use them as wrapping paper.

Another example of my fascination with the tinier, more edible looking creatures of Monterey.

And another.

Of course, what the Aquarium is most famous for are its (rescued) California sea otters, surprisingly large and personable creatures, who genuinely love (as the penguins did too, actually) to come right up to the glass and spend a little while gazing back at the lanky creatures who seem so fascinated by them. You can see my reflection in the glass of the tank, but you can also see the otter gripping the yellow glove he had been playing with between his tiny paws.

And finally, a psychedelic note to end on. Isn't this the most marvelously tactile picture?
Well, the travels are well and truly done, and it is time to get down to some pretty intensive dissertation work. Not that this will put me off of my pleasure reading, of course. Much of which is fairly work related anyway. I have recently joined an academic group dealing with Theatre and Film, so that legitimizes my 1001 Films project, right? I had better get right to work on that...

3 Responses so far.

  1. kookie says:

    That otter looks like he wanted to go home with you. Great pictures all around.

  2. I know! He was a charmer. The sad thing was that at this point of the visit, my camera was running pretty severely out of both battery power and memory space. It seemed like every time an otter came right up to me and all but juggled in front of me, my camera would flash the "I'm sorry, but you took too many pictures of volcanoes earlier in this trip. You'll have to erase some if you want pictures of this once-in-a-lifetime otter encounter" light. Bah!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the photos! I used to live in San Jose, we moved away when I was 9, and loved the Aquarium. I have been wanting to go back ever since and your pictures gave me that chance in a way. I would still love to go their again in person, I'm a bit jealous.

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