21 October 2005

Sydney Aquarium

I decided to divide the animal show. Part one will be from the Sydney Aquarium. And it's gonna be long, so maybe you should go grade some papers first, Mary.

First is a PLATYPUS. There were three of them swimming around the tank, along with a couple turtles and lizards. They are smaller than I thought: less than half a meter (foot and a half, yanks) including their tail. They dive for the bottom and root around for stuff to eat hidden in the sand. They close their eyes while underwater, and their ears and nostrils clamp shut, too. They are very strange creatures. Some of you may have heard that when explorers first came here, they caught one, stuffed it, and sent it back to England. The scientists there were convinced it was a hoax. I understand why; they look like someone went to the discount bin of leftovers and grabbed spare animal parts.

The SALTWATER CROCODILE. Maybe it is just me, but I always equated crocs and alligators. Not that I thought they were the same animal, but I thought they were the same size, and had the same disposition, etc. Wrong! Now some crocs are smaller, but a large saltie can reach six meters (nineteen feet--I am really enjoying the metric system. I wish the US had switched over like all my elementary and middle school science teachers promised). And they aren't shy, either. You see people doing stunts around alligators. Tightrope walking over them, running through a mud puddle with a few of them, feeding them meat out of their hands. No one does stuff like that with a croc. Wikipedia begins the entry on saltwater crocodiles by saying they are "the largest of all living reptiles, and is often said to be the most dangerous to humans." Wikipedia also mentions that the largest found was nearly nine meters (29 feet). Measure that off somewhere and try to picture it. This picture was taken from a viewpoint above the open tank. If you can't read the sign in the picture, it says, "Do Not Enter. If the fall does not kill you, the crocodile will." I've read about more croc attacks since we have been here than sharks. They'll stalk you. Two quick stories. There were three boys up north who got caught in a storm, and their boat capsized. Two got safely up a tree in time to watch a croc eat the third. It then waited under the tree for them to fall out. Three days later they were finally rescued. Their first words to the rescuers who had braved the croc infested waters to save them: "Are you insane?!?" Second story: a group was having a picnic on the shore. They knew crocs were around the area, but they had never seen one attack anybody, so it was OK, right? Most were swimming. A lady was standing on the bank, watching the swimmers, when a large croc leaped out of the water, grabbed her, and fell back in the water. No one had even seen it coming. I have a few more stories I have read in the paper, but it is time to move on. I can sum most of them up like this: If you must take a boat up a croc-infested river, why would you choose a small canoe or rowboat?

The SHARKS. This picture was taken inside an underwater tunnel. The background is pretty dark, and I look like a ghost, but we weren't working with the best lighting conditions. Anyway, there were five or six different species of sharks in this tank, along with rays, including the GIANT RAY also pictured, a good
three meters across (I'll leave the conversion to you). What you see in the picture is what it did the entire time we were there. It just hung out on top of the tunnel. Maybe that's why we couldn't get good lighting. Back to the sharks. There were small Port Jacksons, black tips, and white tips. The ones posing with me are nurse sharks. They are larger, about three to four meters, and they have snaggle-looking teeth, and their bodies looked pretty torn up, but they are all show. Harmless. There was a separate tank with a tunnel that held seals. Watching them swim is like watching a bird fly. They are so fast and smooth.

The aquarium is definitely taking advantage of the NEMO phenomenon. As you approach the reef exhibit, you begin seeing signs saying "This way for Nemo!" or "Can you find Nemo and his friends?" As you can see from the pictures, I could find Nemo and his friend. I also found his black and white friend, but that is another picture. If you visit Sydney, and decide to check out the aquarium for yourself, prepare to hear a racket of squeaky voices all saying "Nemo! Nemo! Nemo!" And be prepared to delete a photo or two when a kid sticks his hand in your nicely framed picture in an attempt to pet Nemo.

Well, that's it for this week. Next week I'll share pictures from our trip to Taronga Zoo.

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