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The Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea life centres and salt-water aquariums are popular in the USA, Europe and elsewhere. The United States has seen huge growth in them, not only along the coast but sometimes well inland. The John G Shedd Aquarium in Chicago opened in 1930 alongside Lake Michigan. In Baltimore the National Aquarium (no less) is much more recent and has formed part of the well-established regeneration programme in the downtown/docks area. On the west coast is the Monterey Bay Aquarium which opened its first galleries in 1984 and has averaged 1.8 million visitors annually since then, and will have seen over 40 million people go through the entrance doors by the end of 2006.

Image: John Steinbeck statue, Monterey Bay

The rich, and often deep, waters of Monterey Bay supported a sardine fishing industry in years gone by, and now support a marine conservation project and tourism industry largely related to it. Some sixteen canning factories occupied this area of Monterey. John Steinbeck described life in what he called Cannery Row in vivid, realistic language. As the novel grew in popularity and drew attention to the area, the City of Monterey decided to rename Ocean View Drive 'Cannery Row'. The Hovden Cannery was the last to operate, closing in 1972.

Image: Canneries in Monterey

Four years later some marine biologists at Stanford University proposed that an aquarium be built here. The land adjacent to the Hopkins Marine Station, run by the University, was purchased for almost $1m. The aquarium was to hold communities of sea life rather than individual species, an approach advocated by Edward F Ricketts, another biologist and friend of Steinbeck. The Ricketts Pacific Biological Laboratory stood next to the Hovden Cannery. In the novel, Ricketts is called Doc and his business the Western Biological Laboratory.

Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium interpreter at work

Finance for the initial construction came from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of Palo Altos, California, in a $55m gift to the non-profit Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. David Packard and Bill Hewlett were the founders of Hewlett-Packard, makers of computer and communication equipment. They met when studying at Stanford University. Their original premises - a one-car garage - has incidentally been declared the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Packard's daughters, Nancy and Julie, both studied marine biology, becoming committed conservationists, and persuaded him to support the Aquarium Project. Julie Packard is now its Director.

Image: Inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Huge tanks contain marine communities. An outdoor pool receives sea water at high tide and sea animals can enter: the water partially drains out as the tide recedes. Staff give talks and demonstrations each day as here, where the audience is looking out over the pool.

Image: At the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Sandy Shore exhibit reproduces a wedge of beach leading into the sea. Birds can fly in to the partially open-sided display area and walk along the 'shore' and swim in the water, as Aquarium visitors watch them. Another tank is for sea otters, swimming around in small groups to the delight of children. Otters also can be seen in the water next to the Aquarium, as in the middle photo above. The Kelp Forest tank contains fish moving in and out of the 9-metre high strands of kelp, an important feature of Monterey Bay.

Image: Monterey Aquarium and the Bay


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