Monday, May 04, 2009

Otters! Penguins! The Monterey Aquarium

I do apologise if you've popped over here under the impression that this is a fashion blog. Because today, ladies & gentlemen, we are all about the cute-ness:

My car engine blowing up on my coastal drive up from LAX a month ago meant that I had to give up most of my trad sight-seeing plans in favour of putting pedal to metal so that I could arrive in time for dinner in San Francisco with L (and the rest). This time around I was determined to hit up the Monterey Aquarium, about 115 miles south of San Francisco.

I'm not a huge fan of co-mingling with hundreds of small, shrieking, sticky-pawed humans, so choosing Saturday morning wasn't my best move, but I'd heard tell of penguins and of sea otters and I was damned if I was going to drive on by, especially considering I could have pressed on to Santa Cruz the night before when I discovered that my Monterey hotel was over-booked & everywhere else was full. Instead I had opted to spend the night persecuted by snorers & tooth grinders in a dormitory at Monterey Youth Hostel.

Monterey Aquarium is not the huge production you get at the London or the San Francicso Aquariums: there are no sharks nosing at you from behind inch thick glass. What you get is an exhibit dedicated to the fascinating sea life of Monterey Bay and beyond, with an emphasis on education, preservation and sustainability, all within a wonderful building contained in the old dockside sardine cannery. (Think Steinbeck's Cannery Row.)

Really, with the bright colours and emphasis on interactivity & touch pools it's aimed at infants not adults, but I would have happily paid double the $27.95 entrance just to watch the sea otters frolicking for an hour or two.

Stranded as pups, without the skills to survive in the wild, they were rescued by the Aquarium’s groundbreaking Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program, and now live in a huge tank, frisking about for the visitors. They are especially tricky to shoot, as they move through the water like greased lightning. I have one too many images like this:

Fortunately I did manage this:

I also shot some rather wobbly video especially for Emma over at Belgian Waffling who, like me, can happily spend lost hours watching YouTube footage of small furry animals. (I suggest turning the sound down unless you wish to have your eardrums pierced by the shrieks of small children.)

You can join Friends of the Sea Otters here. They do need our help: an officially endangered species, there are only about 2200 otters now found off California's central coast.