Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ocean School Field Trip

To wrap up our ocean studies we went to a local "aquarium" called Seahorse World. It was a lovely family trip for us as Mr S had a special day off and completely instigated and encouraged the entire trip. He's just that kinda Homeschool Dad!

So off we trundled on a long journey while listening to the funniest audio book ever. Okay, so that might be an exaggeration, but the amount of laughter coming from our car caused a few sheep to stop and look at us.

Seahorse World is a large warehouse down on the docks and the only way you can enter the seahorse areas is with a guided tour. It's a must. We aimed for a 1:15 tour, but due to circumstances beyond our control.. like getting stuck behind a tour bus who was putting tour to the absolute extreme, getting stuck behind a few work trucks that couldn't handle curves and hills, and so on we missed the 1:15 tour by about 5 minutes. Bummer! However, we were able to get in with the 2:00 tour.

We hung outside for a while and spotted a flock of cormorants lazily enjoying the sun. We use to have one of these as a frequent visitor on our own dock at our last home, so it was fun to enjoy watching them again. There were a few fishermen down there too, and we were wondering if the birds were waiting for a fine catch before actually moving.

Once our group set off for our tour we were led into a room of large aquariums where they featured some of their seahorses. Our group consisted mostly of elderly tourists, but there was one other child aside from our boys. It was so fun to watch our boys walk around the first room and point out which seahorses were which. They also thought that the big bellied seahorses were all Daddy seahorses ready to have babies at any moment. Our guide was most impressed they knew that bit of information, but she pointed out that particular breed is meant to have a big tummy regardless.

This is a most terrible photo, but do you see that tiny sideways seahorse shape in there? That's a very young seahorse, less then 2 weeks old! There were several of them in the tank, but they all moved quickly so getting a good photo was really difficult.

Here's a much better picture of some young seahorses, but these were all considerably older. Seahorse World isn't abashed at admitting they are a seahorse farm. This means they raise seahorses for the general purpose of selling them. All though they do keep some for research purposes. They had a combined total of six tanks the size of rain water collection tanks full of young seahorses. They ranged in ages from 2 weeks to 2 months. I believe the picture above was in middle of this age range.

There were another 8 tanks quite like this one. Full to the brim with different species of seahorses. It was amazing to see the different variety and watch them. It turns out their tails curling is a natural reflex, and the moment it touches it something it instantly curls up. Thus, if a seahorse tail touches even another searhoses neck it will instantly curl up. The guide was very intent to inform us this wasn't a fight but a natural reaction of the muscles in the tail.

The pictures are rather blurry because I had a very hard time catching photos of moving objects! These fellows were quick to pop up and down and all around. All though as soon as she fed them so we could see how they eat they all instantly sunk to the bottom of the tank to suck up their food. None of them bothered to grab it from the top of the water like goldfish tend to do.

In another room they had a variety of sealife, including a tank with three of these big old crabs in it. They had that blue net in it and the crabs would climb up and down it. This is one creature we didn't study, as we spent a lot of time in the first two weeks of our Ocean Unit and have decided to save the last two weeks for next summer. Needless to say my boys were plaguing the guide with plenty of questions about this fellows bumps, long legs, and so on.

There was a beautiful tank full of sea anemone. The boys were so excited to see and to catch some of it actually moving around! It was amazing, and the fact that they could say it without getting tongue tied impressed a few of the other guests on the tour. The boys were hoping to see some of it turn to coral right before their eyes and needed a slight reminding of how long it can actually take unless you're fortunate to be a member of Ms. Frizzle's classroom.

Can you see the skate on the bottom of the tank? It blended in quite well with it's surroundings. This particular tank had a couple of sharks, a very small sting ray (compared to what we normally see), the skate, a few hermit crabs, and a few other fish inside of it.

Here's one of the funny little hermit crabs that was in the tank. The sting ray in the same tank was either playing or attempting to eat this fellow. Mr Ray was really harassing this guy something wicked. When it would get going for too long another crab would come over and give him a pinch or climb right up on the sting rays back until it swam away. It was interesting to watch.

Here's the naughty little sting ray himself. My boys thought he was hilarious, but were equally enthralled with the fact that they could watch his gills moving. He was quite the active fish in the tank too!

Here's the shark that was in the tank with them. The guide said that the shark don't generally eat their other fish, but rather the other fish have been known to attack their sharks and then have to be removed from the tanks. Funny, huh?

Then there was Cuthbert Jr. Seriously, that was his name! He was the cutest fish in the whole place. He's a cuttlefish, and despite the sign saying he was shy he was incredibly friendly when we stepped up to his tank to look at him. He would barely swim away unless we started to walk off. We tried to snap a photo of him with his tentacles out, but he was too content to simply sit there staring at us.

This was the laminated sign next to his aquarium. We didn't actually notice it until we were about to walk into the next room. The boys were impressed he had three hearts! Turns out seahorses have their hearts in their head, so we learned some funny heart information!

Is this not the saddest looking face you've ever seen? He was one of the other fish in the same tank as the shark, ray, and skate. We were all making such a fuss over the other creatures that this fellow swam right up front and centre of the tank and stayed there until we snapped his photo! It was quite cute.

I know it's blurry, but there's a photo of the weedy sea dragon. We were very excited to see this guy live there, and had really hoped to see a leafy sea dragon too, but they had none on display. As it turned out the guide told us no photos of this creature, but Mr S was still in the last room trying to get a picture of a pot bellied seahorse, the same seahorse who was more intent to swim up and down and get a better look at Mr S. Thus, Mr S never heard that information. When he came in the room he was standing with us admiring the naughty little ray and were commenting on how it wasn't nearly as big as what we see at the beach when Jayden said, "Oh Daddy!! Look at this!" Mr S whirled around and snapped a photo before Morgan told him the guide had said we weren't allowed. Thus, we have a photo as the guide didn't confiscate it. However, it's blurry.

Then there was this beauty! Do you know what that is? My boys did, especially Morgan, and he was beyond excitement. He was literally dragging us through the wet floors to get to this particular aquarium which was made dark with paper on the outside so that you could see the bioluminescent effect. I'm pretty sure Morgan will be dragging out Night Of The Moonjellies before the weekend is over.


Tracey said...

Great pictures! We loved looking at the seahorses.

Edwena said...

Great photos! I'm showing my dc tomorrow. They will love it. We're reading Pagoo right now and they are nuts over the ocean and sea creatures.

alecat said...

That looks like such a lovely place to visit. We'll have to keep that on our list of places to see when we're in Tassie! :)

Anonymous said...

That looks like an incredibly fun place to go!