January 28, 1996
Web posted at: 11:05 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Rusty Dornin
MONTEREY, California (CNN) -- When California's Monterey Bay Aquarium opens its new $57 million exhibit in March, landlubbers will see creatures normally found 100 miles offshore.
"What we're trying to do is bring that unique and hard-to- access environment closer to home," says Joe Choromanski of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Sharks, sunfish, yellowfin tuna and the largest permanent display of jellyfish will be on display. Seven years of research went into the exhibit -- research that proved it's much easier to catch tuna for sushi than it is to keep them in captivity.
Choromanski says that capturing the underwater creatures, bringing them to shore, working with them until they began to eat again, and then transporting them to their final home "took years and years of practice and trial and error."
Making sure everyone gets a decent meal can be a challenge. Tuna can swim 40 miles per hour -- a lumbering sunfish wouldn't have a prayer to beat the tuna to dinner. So handlers gave them a target to aim for.
"They'll come over to the target and actually feed by hand rather than compete with the tuna," says Choromanski.
There are no reefs or beaches where the aquarium's new residents come from, and the bottom is far below the surface. The new exhibit recreates the feel of the big boundless blue -- a bit of aquatic theatrical magic, for example, creates the effect of the sun filtering through the ocean.
The result is an exhibit that accentuates the mysteries of life undersea.
"We know more about the moon than we know about the deep sea," says the aquarium's Steve Webster. "It's far and away the largest part of the earth where there are living things." (134K AIFF sound or 134K WAV sound)
The aquarium's main window to the deep -- the world's largest according to aquarium officials -- is 54 feet long, 15 feet high, and holds a million gallons. And it is a work in progress.
The new exhibit opens to the public on March 2, and the aquarium's staff hopes it will inspire awe ... and a sense of oceanic conservation as well.
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