October 9, 2006

Dun, dun, dun-dun, dun-dun dun-dun… Zzzzzzzzzz

Friday Night Mini Red and I had the Sleepover with the Sharks. I knew our drive up would not be easy and it wasn’t. What would normally be a 45 minute drive took us two hours and I’m sure the rain didn’t help. When we reached Baltimore City Mini Red was pinging because we could see the Aquarium but we were stuck in traffic. At least we knew it was ok if we were late and this calmed her down a bit.

After parking and running through the rain we finally arrived. We were greeted and they took us to drop our belongings off before we went for a bite to eat. We had free time to roam the Aquarium before the 7pm Dolphin show where we had VIP seating right up front in the splash zone. This is where we met up with the “College Kids”. The “College Kids” consisted of three girls and two guys that came from PA.

Where we sat was a view Mini Red and I had never seen before. We were waiting for the show to start and people were mulling around trying to find a seat when right in front of us a little kid almost goes right into the water. I think all of us in the front row yelled, which froze the kid. The father came down saying, “Its ok he can swim. He was just following his sister.” I don’t care if he can swim I don’t think you want him in the dolphin tank. The show finally started and I don’t know if it was our seats or they stepped up the show but it was awesome. We got soaked and that was thanks to one of the trainers splashing us not the dolphins.

We all gathered after the show and we totaled eleven. The five “College Kids from PA, the teacher and her husband from Frederick, MD, the couple from Richmond and Mini Red and I. Our guide’s name is Al and he has been involved with the Aquarium since it opened in 1981.

We learned so much this weekend especially when Al took us all around the aquarium. We started in the areas none of the regular people are allowed. We went into a stairwell for employees only and learned that if a tank broke they had the system set so the water would go in a stairwell like the one we were in. This way the paying guest wouldn’t be bothered or may not even know if something semi disastrous happened. I’m curious about other engineering set ups they have since they seem to have thought of everything. We then saw the kitchen and learned of their daily routines and how they feed the fish. The sharks won’t eat frozen food so they have to get all their food fresh from local markets. We then broke up into two groups and went on the catwalk over the shark tank. This was so cool but due to countershading it made it difficult to see the sharks unless they came up to the top of the water.

Al then took us through the rest of the aquarium as it was closing and gave us a tour pointing out things we probably wouldn’t have noticed before. I loved the Giant Pacific Octopus. When we were at the Aquarium about a month ago the Octopus had laid eggs all over the glass. Females die shortly after laying their eggs, and males can only live for a few months after fertalizing them. So as Al said “There’s no safe sex for the octopus.” Mini Red and I were sad to hear about the last octopus passing, but the new one is large and thriving. I had a difficult time stepping away during our late night tour as two others and I got to witness the octopus stretching. That was so cool! The tentacles were all rolling around each other before she streched them out. Her head looks as if it has an extremely large nose (not sure of the technical terms), but it reminded me of a testicle... A really large testicle!

Everything Al talked about is listed at each tank but sometimes it is easy to miss. Another fascinating animal is The California Sheephead. They are female until they are 7 or 8 years old, when the ovaries become testes; they then function as males for the rest of their lives. How odd is that? As best I see it they are nature’s transsexuals.

After our tour we had a snack and got our stuff and set up our beds on the observation area. Al turned out the lights and went to his own area to sleep. Mini Red wanted to go up a level to watch the sharks but I was hesitant until she said the college kids had gone up there and I finally decided we could too. We sat with very little light and talked as Mini Red was running around like she was on a track. It wasn’t long before she was ready for bed. Oye that floor was so hard! My back kept cracking as it was adjusting and sleeping on your side was near impossible. I finally gave up and stayed on my back but I had to get past the teacher’s husband’s snoring. It was horrible! The cool part was every time I woke up there was this huge tank in front of me and something would swim by.

We got up about 7 got dressed and ate breakfast. We then toured the frog area that I had never seen before. Did you know the African bullfrog could eat a small kitten? We then got a hands-on demonstration with the horseshoe crabs before returning to the classroom for a game of Shark Jeopardy. This brought the end of our Immersion Tour and it was quite the experience.

Mini Red and I decided to put our stuff in the car and go back into the Aquarium. We hung out for another three hours. On our drive home we sang impromptu songs about our weekend and we were happy to be heading home for a well needed nap.