I'm Steve Ember.
|The glass dome of the Monterey Aquarium is filled with anchovies|
And I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. For thousands of years, people have wanted to explore the world under the sea. Such activity was not possible until modern times. Today, divers can survive for hours underwater and photograph fish and other sea creatures.
Not everyone can swim with fish in the ocean. But they can enjoy underwater life in another way -- by visiting an aquarium.
Experts do not really know when people began keeping fish as pets. But they say that people have been interested in fish for thousands of years. Some say the ancient Sumerians were the first civilization to keep fish in ponds more than four thousand years ago. The Chinese kept and studied carp and goldfish more than one thousand years ago. The ancient Romans kept eels as pets. And the Greek philosopher Aristotle made what is believed to be the first known study of sea life, including sharks and dolphins.
Experts say that keeping fish at home in small water tanks called aquariums is extremely popular today. And everyone seems to enjoy visiting huge public aquariums that have opened around the world.
By the middle of the eighteen hundreds, science had shown that plants, fish and other sea creatures could survive together under water. So it was no longer necessary to change the water in a tank for fish to live there. This led to the building of the first public aquariums.
`The first one opened in London, England in eighteen fifty-three. In the next fifteen years, other aquariums opened in Europe and the United States. By nineteen twenty-eight, there were about forty-five public aquariums.
Today, millions of people visit aquariums around the world. Jane Valentine is an official with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. She says the United States has more than seventy-five public aquariums. And she says that about forty-seven million people visit these places each year.
One of the most famous aquariums is in Monterey, California. Officials say the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been recognized as the finest aquarium in the United States. It is in a building that used to be a kind of factory called a cannery. This was where workers prepared fish and placed them in cans to be sold.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium shows visitors the underwater life in the bay. Scientists at the aquarium also study the animals and work to help many survive.
For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium cared for nineteen penguins from New Orleans, Louisiana. They were rescued after hurricane Katrina struck the area in two thousand five. These penguins were kept until they were ready to be returned to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.
The Monterrey Bay Aquarium also works to save the sea otter. Aquarium workers rescue lost or hurt young sea otters and prepare them to survive in the wild. The ones that cannot be released are kept in the aquarium and entertain visitors by swimming quickly and playing tricks in the water.
Visitors especially enjoy watching them play with objects in the water. When sea otters find new objects, they smell them, hold them, play with them and hit them against other hard objects. The otters hit their toys against the walls of the tank in front of the happy visitors.
At the center of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a huge tank more than eight meters high. It is one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world.
The tank holds more than one million liters of seawater and many different kinds of fish. It also holds more than one hundred kinds of plants. Officials say the tank was built in the center of the aquarium because it would get the most sunlight each day. All this sun helps the plants grow -- about ten centimeters every day. An official says the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the first aquarium in the world to show a living kelp forest.
|A leopard shark swimming among kelp plants|
A kelp forest is a kind of ecosystem established around colonies of a seaweed plant called kelp. Kelp can extend between two and thirty meters or more from the sea floor to the surface of the water. These plants provide homes to many fish and other sea animals.
The aquarium is also an education center. Workers help visitors and especially children understand sea creatures and their importance in the world. Children and adults can see many sea creatures being fed and watch a movie about underwater life. They can even touch some of these creatures in small tide pools. Workers make sure visitors touch the rays, crabs and sea stars very carefully.
One extremely large public aquarium opened in Atlanta, Georgia in two thousand five. The Georgia Aquarium says it is the largest in the world. It has more than one hundred thousand sea animals in thirty million liters of water. These include two whale sharks -- the world's largest fish.
|A whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium|
The Georgia Aquarium is divided into sixty different environments called habitats. The largest holds more than twenty-two million liters of water. It was especially designed for the whale sharks and the thousands of other animals that live in the ocean. The second largest habitat was designed to copy the natural environment of beluga whales.
Building large public aquariums is very costly. Most of the money to build the Georgia Aquarium was provided by businessman Bernard Marcus. He and his wife gave two hundred fifty million dollars to help pay for the building. The total cost was two hundred ninety million dollars. Reports said that more than one million people visited the Georgia Aquarium in the first six months that it was open.
Another aquarium re-opened in two thousand five in Camden, New Jersey. The Adventure Aquarium first opened in nineteen ninety-two. It spent about fifty million dollars to expand its building and improve its exhibits.
Visitors can watch a hippopotamus in the West African River Experience area of the Adventure Aquarium. Reports say the Adventure Aquarium is the only one in the country that has two hippos.
One exciting area of the aquarium is the shark tunnel. Visitors can watch twenty-six dangerous creatures up close without fear. The tunnel is suspended in the middle of the shark tank.
Even more exciting for visitors is the chance to get in the water and swim with the sharks! Swimmers wear special clothes and must follow a few rules. For example, they must not make the sharks angry or make any quick movements. Swimming with the sharks costs more than one hundred dollars.
Another aquarium that provides education and adventures with sharks is the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore Aquarium has more than ten thousand sea animals. It opened in nineteen eighty-one.
Its shark adventure includes a tour with an expert to learn about these ancient creatures and how the aquarium workers feed and care for them. Children can even sleep near the sharks overnight. Children sleep in the viewing area as sharks sleep nearby, behind protective glass.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore also presents a dolphin show. It shows how young dolphins learn and develop the skills they need to survive.
Aquariums provide the public with many chances to experience life under the sea. These fun and educational places can be found in most areas of the world. Visiting an aquarium is a good way for children to learn about sea creatures. They might even want to start an aquarium at home and join the millions of people around the world who keep fish as pets.
(MUSIC: "Under The Sea")
This program was written by Nancy Steinbach. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.