Ashley and I went to Underwater Adventures at the Mall of America last Friday. She had never been to UA, and neither of us had done the behind the scenes tour.
We arrived at UA at about 5:40pm. We had 20 minutes before the behind the scenes tour, and so we wandered around in the first part of the exhibit, which is set up like a forest. We saw turtles, freshwater fish and snakes. We walked under a tunnel that was designed to look like the inside of a beaver dam.
At 6pm we headed back for the behind the scenes tour, which included a tour of the kitchen in which the UA staff prepares the fish for all of the different animals (cleanest kitchen at MOA according to the tour guide!), and a tour of the lab where the scientists do water testing and where they raise a few of the newborn hatchlings. Then there was the area above the tanks! We saw a few of the isolation tanks where a sick turtle was being nursed to health, and where some of the “overflow” fish were being stored (I’m not sure if they were being held until they could be traded to another aquarium or what…), and one of the tanks was where the huge octopus was being held. She was really active - undulating her tentacles for us and displaying her 200 suction cups per arm.
Then we were on the catwalks over the main exhibint tanks! We had the chance to feed the rays, puffer fish and other animals from one habitat, and then we looked down into the shark tank. They were lazily gliding through the water, or sleeping on the sandy bottom, and one shark was kind enough to show off its Jaws “dorsal fin cresting the surface of the water” impression.
After the tour we went back to the public exhibit and walked through the underwater viewing tube.
The coolest part of the exhibit for me was the jellyfish display. The rooms that housed the jellyfish were dark – virtually the only lighting in the place came from the tanks themselves, the majority of which were floor-to-ceiling tubes spaced throughout the room. The effect was ghostly and I felt as if I was in a technologically advanced society…perhaps one in which I was under observation, rather than the other way around. My favorite picture from the whole outing came from the entry to the jellyfish room. This is Ashley silhouetted in front of one of the flat wall tanks:
It was a good time, a great exhibit, and I highly recommend this experience for any child or adult who finds themselves in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and has a place in their heart for the fishies.