The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, located in the heart of New Orleans alongside the mighty Mississippi used to be one of the preeminent aquariums in the world with over 10,000 fish of over 500 species. Then Katrina came. Nearly all the animals died with the exception of the white alligator, the birds, a 250 pound sea turtle, the otters and the penguins. Apparently, a few police officers checked in daily to feed the animals and I heard a story about one policeman who brought ice for the penguins everyday.
In the last five years, the aquarium has served as an anchor for returning families and tourists and has continued its efforts to restock all the exhibits. Having lived spitting distance from the aquarium in Baltimore, I’m fairly spoiled and had high expectations, but the Aquarium of the Americas was wonderful!
There was the requisite tunnel-through-the-tank and rainforest habitat as well as many displays of fish, seahorses, frogs and jellyfish but there were lots of things I hadn’t seen. I’m so glad I wandered into the children’s section (sans child). In addition to the jungle gyms and interactive displays, there was a tank to pet stingrays. They were smooth, jelly-like and muscular all at once. I loved the penguin tank because we arrived at feeding time and got quite a show. And I’d never seen an otter tank. Very cool. The otters were much larger than I’d thought.
There was a bubble in the glass of the Gulf of Mexico tank (sponsored by many oil companies including Exxon, Shell and… BP) and sitting inside was like being in the Pixar snow-globe inside the fish bowl. I’ll admit to melancholy over the BP catastrophe in the Gulf. New tar balls and oil bubble up on our shores everyday and the national news reports nothing – or worse, that the oil magically disappeared.
My very favorite part was the 40 minute movie, Deep Sea 3D, at the IMAX theatre. As we settled into our seats, everyone slowly started noticing the background music, a song that can best be described as Donna Sommers on Ecstasy. As smoky-voiced spoken lyrics expressed, “Oh yes, I’ve been waiting for your call, to get inside your mind…” and “The moon sends an erotic beam of light that throws shadows across the bed,” we all started looking at each other and giggling. The children seemed none the wiser, but 2 rows down, a man finally said jokingly, “I’m so glad I brought my 4 year old.” The guy one row down held his phone up and an app named the song, Phone Sex by Jason Miles (though it’s sung-spoken entirely by a woman). We couldn’t help but laugh and, of course, wonder if anyone knew what we were listening to.
The unseen M.C.gave us a brief speech and told us to put on our glasses and it all became clear. HIS voice was like Barry White on Ecstasy, velvety smooth and speakeasy-ready. What fun. Then the actual movie was amazing. I’ve seen many 3D movies but this was the first one that inspired me to reach my hand out in front of my face like a bewildered child. The IMAX runs 3 different movies all day everyday. Currently, there’s a film about the Grand Canyon and its river as well as one about the coastal wetlands with 3D footage of Hurricane Katrina caught while they were filming.
It was a wonderful day full of magical sights, fascinated children and some of the Earth’s most beautiful creatures. Enjoy the video.