Saturday, October 24, 2009

Under the Sea

When it started raining in Big Sur, I mean, it started pouring. It was a hard and relentless rain when we woke up Tuesday morning. The night before we figured for a rainy day the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the ticket.

The drive was dark, wet and rainy. The first thing we did when we got to Monterey was to buy the biggest umbrella we could find at a local pharmacy. You know it's really raining when you have to go out of your way to find an umbrella. This was no little sprinkle you could run through and shake off. This was drenching rain. Armed & ready we found our way to the aquarium.

Right after we arrived it was feeding time for the sea otters. Usually they feed the animals from the top deck, but since it was raining so hard, the otters were fed from several different feeding tubed within the exhibit.

This beautiful otter snatched up a bit of squid as she swam by. These are amazing animals and just so darned cute you cannot stand it. They are so gracefully and balletic while swimming through the water and there is a playful quality to them. I could have stood there all day, but the hubby encouraged me to move on to the next exhibit.

What is it about jellyfish that are so fascinating? They are so ethereal and captivating to the point of hypnosis.

These are called egg yolk jellyfish

Breathtaking creatures

Next was the big tank with super fast fishies & sharks (reefs, hammerheads, and a baby great white). It was feeding time for the fast fish. The sharks are well fed but at a separate time. They steer clear of the fast fish during the feeding frenzy.

School of sardines



During the feeding you get to hear a little bit about sustainable fishing and in the end they pass out a seafood watch guide. You can learn more about which fish are the more sustainable choices to eat here.

Seahorses are another stunning creature.

The kelp forest

We saw amazing sea life at the aquarium. It is astounding at how intricate and colorful and diverse life is on this planet. The world that exists underwater is so fascinating and foreign to me.

Some years back I went snorkeling for the first time in Mexico. Standing in about waist high water, I put on my mask and snorkel and plunged my face under the water. I screamed. There were fish all around me. Like right next to me. It was shocking, and truly naive, but I really had no idea the fish were right there. I figured a big ole human comes splashing around your habitat that everyone swims away. Oh the hubris. With the naked eye above the water I couldn't see that anything was swimming around me, but they were there and they are there. Now I have much more respect when I go splashing around for my own pleasure in the waters. Really, in this world, I am just a guest on the fringes of realms I barely know or understand and its greatness is awesome.

Before we left the aquarium I wanted to say good bye to the otters. This time from the upstairs portion of the exhibit. You can tell that it is pouring rain outside by the surface of the water.

Do you think she would like it to stop raining into her eyeballs?

There are only a little more than 2000 of these sea otters in existence

"Sea otters once thrived from Baja California to the Pacific Northwest of North America through Alaskan and Russian waters and into Japan before hunters nearly exterminated them in the 1700s and 1800s. The California population has grown from a group of about 50 survivors off Big Sur in 1938 to just over 2000 today. Although their numbers have increased, sea otters still face serious risks: oil from a single tanker spill near San Francisco or off the central coast could wipe out the entire California sea otter population.

The Aquarium partners with state, federal and academic researchers to study otters in the wild. The more we learn about otter behavior, biology and health, the better we can protect these threatened animals".

You can learn more about sea otters on the Aquarium website and saving the sea otter. They even have a live webcam, although for some reason I can't get it to work on my computer. I hope you can check them out. You just want to take one home.

Bye Bye sea otter!

After leaving the aquarium it was really windy and rainy. We soon came to the realization that much of the city of Monterey was completely dark due to power outages caused by the storm. On the way back to Big Sur we stopped by Carmel. Carmel was also completely dark. All the power outages and road crews out told us it was time to get back to the cabin. It was a white knuckler of a ride home. The wind was fierce. You could see the rain zig zagging across the pavement. It was blowing so hard that sometimes we thought we were going to be blown off the cliffs and plunged into the black and roiling sea below. Sometimes the sheer mountains would block the wind and then you would turn a corner and BLAM-O the car would be buffeted by wind and rain. It was scary and a little bit thrilling to tell the truth.

When we got back to the campground, the power was out there too. The generators were on until 10pm. We ate leftover Beef Stew and hunkered down over the Scrabble board. We played until it was lights out.

No comments: