"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

The Charleston Aquarium

>> Saturday, May 11, 2013

            Stepping into the fish exhibit at the Charleston Aquarium was like entering another world. The only light in the dim carpeted room was glowing from the aquariums that lined the walls, giving off a serene blue that made it seem like the depths of the ocean. Shimmering silver fish flicked back and forth, their wide eyes rimmed with copper and gold, staring through thick glass.
            Another tank stretched from the ceiling to the floor and then extended to the story below. Fish as long as our arm spans drifted by with bemused looks on their bulbous faces. Beside them, small sharks glided behind the rocks. Their leathery skin, white underside and quivering gills seemed magnified through the glass.
            The next tanks were tucked away in an alcove, and as we approached I was excited to find not fish, but ghostly white and transparent jellyfish. We pressed our noses to the glass and watched their soft bodies undulate calmly through the water, their wispy white tentacles following their bodies like streamers. Some had lines of sparkling lights running down their sides. The lights shimmered and changed places with each other, the metallic bright greens, yellows, reds, purples, and blues following one another down the line like lights at a carnival.
            Then we turned to the sea horses. They moved back and forth, wrapping their coiled black tails around the sea plants. Their shape and knobby head made them look like they were the inspiration for sea monsters. Our true seahorse experience didn’t begin until we had left the aquariums and were wandering around the Madagascar exhibition. There Julie met us, a young volunteer who offered to take us discreetly into the back room to show us the five and seven week old seahorses that had hatched at the aquarium. We were lead through double doors into a room filled with aquariums and terrariums. In two of the aquariums swam hundreds of little black sea horses, propelling themselves along with shivering fins on their backs.
            “We’ll swap them with other aquariums for animals we want,” Julie said. “We are lucky to have so many of them.”
            As we left, I couldn’t stop feeling as though by entering the Aquarium we had been privy to something special. It is something not everyone is lucky enough to get to see: the hypnotic world under the surface of the ocean.

Hila Shooter


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