Saturday was a busy day. We got up early (for us, anyway) and drove to Athens for a tour of University of Georgia. I don’t think Katy’s going to be real interested in going there but we figured we should check it out anyway. It’s the oldest public university in the country and was built out in the middle of nowhere (they rejected nearby Watkinsville as a location as there was a restaurant there and it might be a distraction) and the town has grown up around it. The town has hemmed it in. There are lots and lots of buildings but they’re all very close to each other. I thought the campus was pretty claustrophobic. Katy didn’t really have an opinion one way or the other. And she’s not interested in football so that won’t sway her.
After the tour we went back home to have dinner and get our second wind. Then we went to Girl Scout Night at the Georgia Aquarium. They closed the aquarium to the public early and then Girl Scouts had it to themselves from 6:30-10:30. We got there about 7:15, which meant we didn’t have to wait in line to get in. There were lots of people there but it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it is during general admission.
Early last year the aquarium got puffins and Katy has been so anxious to see them. We headed right for the puffin display. And, since it was night time they had the lights down and you couldn’t see them. One was up and swimming around.
We had to go through the penguins to see the puffins. The penguins habitat was all lit up but they looked like they wished someone would turn off the lights and let them sleep.
Katy went into the penguin viewing tunnel and got some good pictures.
Then we went to not see the puffins. One was swimming around and they have the same swimming style as duck or goose.
Heath got some video.
So now we have to go back during the day so we can actually see them.
We left the Coldwater Quest area and went into the center atrium where the Girl Scout council had some tables set up. And we ran into Teresa Rogers, Katy’s Gold Award coach. I was glad we did, I hadn’t gotten a chance to meet her yet.
It’s been a few years since we last visited the aquarium and they’ve made a lot of changes. They got rid of the Native Georgia exhibit, which seems kind of strange for a Georgia aquarium. They added Aquanaut Challenge (more on that later) and a 4D Funbelievable Theater. We went to to the theater show and it was really neat. It was a 3D movie about dolphins and then for the 4D it had bubbles coming from the ceiling and something to poke you in the back (I wasn’t sitting right in the seat to feel it) and sprayers for water but we didn’t get wet during this show.
We went through Tropical Diver and looked at all the jellyfish. They are so neat to watch and so photogenic.
Katy got this picture.
And the pink ones were really pretty.
Another of Katy’s shots.
I thought these upside-down jellies looked neat.
This Mandarinfish has beautiful markings. He was hanging out in a tank full of clown fish so while I was trying to get a picture I had about six little Brownies squealing “It’s Nemo!” next to me.
Tropical Diver is also where all the pretty coral is.
And there’s a big viewing window.
Photo by Katy
There was a beach scene in Tropic Diver and Heath and Katy had fun horsing around.
With the floor cropped out it looks like Heath is taking a nap on the sand.
The biggest viewing attraction at Georgia Aquarium is the Ocean Voyager. To get there you walk through a tunnel and have fish swimming all around you.
There was a giant sea turtle in the tunnel. If you know anything about Katy, you know she loves sea turtles. This is her photo, too. She tried calling it to her, but it didn’t come.
Katy taking a picture of a ray.
You really can’t describe just how big these whale sharks are. You kind of have to see it to believe it. I got some video of the fish swimming around. Earlier Katy said she just wanted to see the puffins and then sit and watch the Ocean Voyager. On the other side of this room is the Oceans Ballroom that you can rent for events (very expensive) and watch this tank.
Watch it with the sound turned down or you get all the hubbub of about a hundred wound-up kids. It really wasn’t that noisy in person.
All the kids watching the fish. Katy came up to me and said “I have to hand it to these little kids, they really know their Finding Dory characters”. Apparently there was a shark character in the movie that is in this tank.
Another big attraction is the dolphins. They have a dolphin show but it wasn’t being performed as the dolphins don’t work nights. Something to do with the Show Dolphin Union, I’m sure. But we did have a nice talk with the docent at the tank. She said they’re going to be opening a big shark display in 2020 with sharks that she said are “big snackers”. So Katy’s already looking forward to that.
A new thing is the Aquanaut Adventure, which is all educational displays. This is what the website says about it:
Aquanaut Adventure is a unique experience that allows parents and children to learn about aquatic life during their expedition through a variety of immersive environments. The gallery offers seven different routes each with seven different adventures, providing multiple opportunities for guests to come back and complete all of the challenges. Only five out of the seven routes have to be completed in order to receive Georgia Aquarium Aquanaut certification. These challenges engage guests in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM)-related activities.
As Aquanauts-in-training, participants will explore fresh water and marine habitats, scientific research, how animals thrive in extreme environments, and even catch a glimpse into what it’s like to have a career in aquatic and marine sciences. The gallery instills a sense of appreciation for our oceans, lakes and rivers of our planet and an understanding of the organisms that thrive there.
If we went through seven routes, I didn’t catch on.
This is the Mariana Trench.
A styromfoam cup at 3,543 feet. They showed one at various depths. Katy had to explain to me what ATM was. It’s short for atmosphere. One ATM is equal to the pressure of water at 10 meters under water.
Katy was disappointed that the insect gallery didn’t have any live insects. I’m not entirely sure why it was even there.
This hallway was about penguins and dolphins as you can tell. It was pretty interesting. The big attraction was the big block of ice.
Next to Katy were two moms/leaders and two girls who were having a contest to see who could keep their hands on it the longest. The girls quit first.
Heath and Katy walking through the submarine.
This was actually a neat area, we need to go back again and really explore it now that I know what’s going on.
While we were in the aquanaut area we walked through a door that I thought was just a hallway. Turns out it was the top of the Ocean Voyager tank. Wow! That’s usually only available to people who do the separate Behind the Scene tour and sleepover guests.
Katy got this panoramic photo.
A close-up of a whale shark with no glass between us!
Video of the top of the tank. The view is better from the viewing window as that’s what it’s designed for but it really neat to actually see the fish. It was really humid in there, too.
We also saw the River Scout area, which is all fresh-water animals. We watched the otters swim but between the dark and the fact that they are fast, we didn’t get any pictures. We also saw a few alligators asleep vertically.
This was one a few a rays in a touch pool but they were on a 10-minute break and we never did make it back to touch them. We did learn about them, though. They are rescues. Someone tried smuggling them through Hartsfield-Jackson airport and were caught. Customs contacted the aquarium to come out and get them. I don’t remember where the lady said they were being brought in from.
Pier 225, where the sea lions are, was closed so we didn’t see that. Looking at old maps, that’s what replaced the native Georgia area. There are some Georgia animals in the River Scout area but I think it’s a shame that they don’t have an area dedicated just to Georgia or this part of the country.
The event ran until 10:30 but everything was wrapping up about 10. They cut off the VR line at that point so Katy never did get to do that, the line was always long.
On the way out I found this leader and wanted a picture of her shirt. She said her troop moms made it for her.
She’s not really green, they had some kind of funky lighting to go along with the incredibly loud music.
So it was a great evening and now we need to go back when the puffins are awake.