Sunday, April 3, 2011

GA Aquarium...YOU should GO!

On April Fool's Day, the boys and I woke early (well, 7:30 am is early for them these days) and had a quick breakfast.  We packed up our things for a day trip...including iPod, Nintendo DS, literature books, the module 14 science test, and last year's Swimming Creatures science textbook. 
Also, a list of questions and my camera.

We climbed into the Tahoe and hit the road...bound for Atlanta...and we were excited!

The following six images were not taken by me. 
They are property of Georgia Aquarium and are used here with permission and with huge thanks!

Because we had been invited to a sneak preview of AT&T's Dolphin Tales, a brand new show at the Georgia Aquarium! The show officially opened to the public on Saturday, April 2, but aquarium members and bloggers were invited to check it out the day before. 

Yes, it was a school day. 
 Why do you ask?  I mentioned that we took our literature and science with us, right?  Besides...field trip!! 
We visited the aquarium last year, but beach lovers like us can never get enough of ocean life.

When we arrived at the aquarium, we were shown into the dolphin gallery where we got to talk with staff members, animal trainers, and marine biologists.  I'm sorry that we didn't get names; they were so patient and friendly!  The boys cornered a biologist and riddled him with questions about dolphin care, conservation, behavior in captivity vs. natural habitat, lifespan, family name it.  The doctor was very open and interested in talking with the boys, answering their questions and asking them some as well.  The aquarium?  Very homeschool friendly, by the way.  They offer some really cool programs for homeschoolers from preschool through high school.  We absolutely plan on checking them out in the fall, since we love an education-friendly place to go.

But back to the questions:

Where did the dolphins at Georgia Aquarium come from?  Were they captured or raised in captivity?  There are eleven dolphins currently at GA Aquarium.  Most of the dolphins come from other facilities around the world and all but one were born under human care.  Only one dolphin comes from open ocean watersShe didn't come to GA Aquarium from the ocean.  (Info on the GA Aquarium's website, if you're interested in knowing more about her story.)

Do dolphins tend to have longer lifespans in the wild or in capivity?  Dolphins typically live longer under human care (plus or minus four years longer according to the biologist we spoke to).  This is because they're monitored for illness and injuries, nutrition and well-being, stress, adequate stimualtion and exercise.  Also because there are no dolphin predators swimming in their habitats in the aquarium.

How does the aquarium try to simulate the dolphins' natural environment?  The dolpins have adequate room to swim, jump and exercise in 5 different pools totalling over a millions gallons of water and 84,000 square feet.  Their pools are between 25 and 30 feet deep and include places to play and explore, hide, scratch and rub their backs against rocky areas as they would in the ocean. 

Are all of the dolphins cooperative or are some of them stubborn?  Do they have favorite trainers or favorite playmates among themselves?  Each of the dolphins has a unique personality.  Some of them are more playful and some are more mischievous.  Some have bonded more strongly to their trainers than others.  Some have bonded strongly with each other...made "friends."  Interestingly, the doctor says that the younger dolphins tend to want to hang around with each other.  They're more energetic, it seems.  Kind of like human kids prefer to hang with each other, rather than with old folks!

Since dolphins are conscious breathers (they have to keep surfacing in order to breathe, even while sleeping) how can a trainer or caretaker tell if the dolphins are asleep?  Their habits vary, but some dolphins sleep by floating near the surface and closing one eye.  Others rest on the bottom and surface occasionally for a breath. 

Now, about the show.  It was spectacular!  There is a story line about Star-Spinner, an ancient sailor whose ship was sunk by sea monsters and rescued by the dolphins.  There's beautiful music orchestrated just for the show.  There are dazzling lights, dramatic scenes, special effects involving storms and rain showers and "lightning" and thunder. 

And then...there are the dolphins!

The dolphins are stunning!
They leap and twirl and flip and swish through the water like silver bullets! 
They toss their trainers up into the air!
They interact with the audience, waving and gesturing.

Every child in that arena was enthralled!
(OK, the adults were impressed, too!)
There was laughter, applause, ooohs and ahhs, gasps of delight...

All pictures from this point ^ UP ^ are from the information pack given to us by the GA Aquarium.  I did not take these photos, and I am using them here with permission.  All images above belong to the aquarium. 

We want to go back again!
The boys? Want to be marine biologists or animal trainers when they grow up. 
No surprise that they wished they never had to leave.  If they could have jumped in, swam away, and follwed a trainer after the show, I'm pretty sure they would have offered to stay and clean the tanks for the chance to see the dolphins in action again.
They want to swim with dolphins, now.  I'm sure I'll never hear the end of it.
They want to learn more about dolphin conservation and care.  
And they are all geared up to take Marine Biology in high school...
but we have to make it through Biology I, first!

The aquarium is a wonderful place for children (and adults) to learn more about ocean life and how we can take steps to ensure these animals have clean and safe environments to live in. 
They're also active in the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that are stranded, stressed, or injured due to weather, accidents, or natural disasters.

Here are some of our photos from the trip...

 Inside the Oceans Ballroom before the show...

 The belugas were there this time!  They're gorgeous!

Having a snack.

Mantas are case you wondered.


 Grouper...very ugly yet tasty.

 Ryan showing us a ray.


 Moon jellies!

 Whale shark and umm...lotsa fish!

Touching the little rays and sharks.

OK, every time this creature swam by, I heard "Oh, knowledge exploring is oh so lyrical, when you think thoughts that are empirical!"  Yes, I have watched Finding Nemo one too many times. 

 This is where all the swimming creatures bring their little ones on field trips...the people tube! 
 Look at all the different kinds of human beings!

 Dinner at The Varisty.  Chelsea, just so you know...I totally ate a chilli slaw dog for supper.  It was the first hot dog I've eaten in almost two years.  It was absolutely delicious!  And it totally killed my stomach.  Ugh!
Zach wouldn't eat one.  He informed me that he knows what hot dogs have in them and there was no way he was putting one in his digestive system!  Smart kid.

They did enjoy their famous orange shakes.

I don't know if I'm supposed to put any sort of a disclosure on this post, since we were visiting at the invitation of the aquarium...but probably.  So here it is:

We were invited by the Georgia Aquarium to view their new AT&T Dolphin Tales show for the purpose of blogging about it later.  We did not receive any compensation for our opinion, but we were treated to free admission to the show and the aquarium.  They did provide us with images and information for use in writing about the aquarium, but all opinions are my own!  

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