Whether you made it to the beach or not this summer, you will definitely want to head over to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History this weekend to learn all about the unseen organisms lurking in the sand under your beach blanket…right??
Fine. Even if the fact that over half of all animal phyla are microscopic and live in sand doesn’t have you clamoring for more, a peek at the new Sant Ocean Hall will.
This Saturday, September 27th, the Ocean Hall will open to the public, but I got a look at the exhibits earlier this week. Spanning 23,000 square feet and boasting 54-foot ceilings, the Hall has a little something for everyone.
Big fan of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?
The exhibit features not one, but two giant squids – though the male looks downright small compared to the 24-foot-long female.
The 45-foot model (above) of a North Atlantic right whale is an exact replica of Phoenix, an actual whale living in the wild. Phoenix, the model, has been dubbed the “ambassador” of the Hall – she holds a prominent position suspended from the ceiling.
National Geographic recently published a feature article on the friendly giants, (pictured, right), which are endangered in the North Atlantic but flourishing in the South Pacific. Brian Skerry's online photo gallery accompanying the article is stunning.
The Journey Through Time gallery boasts fossils of all sizes and shapes. Some are more that 500 million years old.
Intrigued by the relationship between male and female triplewart seadevils?
Well, you get the picture. This hall really is massive, both in size and in scope. These exhibits treat all the the world’s oceans, which cover 70.9 percent of the planet, as a single ecosystem – big, complex, interconnected, and undeniably important to humans and animals alike.
One of the most visible themes is human impact – just look for the symbol of a hand on a globe (left). Visitors can “manage” a fishery in one interactive exhibit – and watch the impact their decisions have on the environment, the economy, and the fish population. Other exhibits spotlight invasive species, climate change, and pollution.
I could go on. I could tell you all about the cool, new technology being unveiled in this hall, about the lighting and the videos being projected on the walls, which make the entire exhibit feel blue and serene, but I won't.
I will however, give you one more sneak peak. This is the Ocean
Hall's Science on a Sphere. In order to teach visitors about oceanic
phenomena, such as plate tectonics and atmospheric interactions,
satellite data is projected onto the sphere from each of the room's
four corners, giving the impression that the globe is spinning. This
quick video features rubber duckies and surface currents:
I'll let you see the rest for yourself.
All the Smithsonian museums are FREE. Check out the Ocean Hall event calendar
(pdf) for more information on upcoming events (detailed information on
Saturday's Grand Opening events can be found on page six) Address: 10th Street and Constitution Ave. NW, National Mall, Washington, D.C.
Top photo: Phoenix, a model, hangs from the ceiling above the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History's new Sant Ocean Hall. Photo by Rachael Dunlap. Top right: A curious right whale checks out photographer Brian Skerry's assistant Mauricio Handler. Courtesy of National Geographic magazine. Bottom: Human Impact symbol.