Tag: national aquarium

New to Baltimore: Our Cutest Resident

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Baby Sloth at Baltimore's National Aquarium

Can a resident of Baltimore’s National Aquarium get attention if they’re not a terrifying shark or a super-genius performing dolphin? The biggest attractions always seem to be the animals who scare or excite us; who can outrun (or out-swim) us, and simultaneously remind us of how we are both a part of the animal kingdom, and undeniably different than its other species. But all this intellectualizing goes right out the window the second you’re face-to-face with Baltimore’s cutest new resident: a baby two-toed sloth born to Ivy and Syd, two older sloths in the Aquarium’s Upland Tropical Rainforests Exhibit.

The baby was born in late August, but has been kept hidden by its mother for the first few weeks of its life (something sloths also do in the wild). Now, almost a month later, you can expect to catch a glimpse of this other-worldy-adorableness hanging out in plain view in the Upland Tropical Rainforests Exhibit, where the sloths roam freely (if slowly) through the treetops. But be sure to plan your trip to the National Aquarium sometime soon; though sloths are famously, well, slothful, just like humans, the little ones do grow up mighty quickly.

The National Aquarium is located at 501 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. You can find out more at www.aqua.org.

Rare Blue Lobster Found in Maryland Waters Goes on Exhibit at National Aquarium

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Just in time for Independence Day, Toby, the rare blue lobster found off the coast of Maryland last month, will go on exhibit at National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. today. Toby’s particular blue hue is said to be a 1-in-2-million exception to the reddish-brown shade of most lobsters. This unique color is a genetic variation that is caused by the lobster producing an excessive amount of a particular protein.

John Gourley and his team aboard the fishing boat, the Pot Luck, caught Toby off the coast of Maryland near Ocean City in June. The lobster had been staying in Martin’s Fish Co.’s lobster tank prior to being donated to the National Aquarium on June 19. Toby was not immediately placed on exhibit due to standard precautionary measures regarding the safety of a new species. Today, Toby will be placed in the recently renovated Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuaries exhibit, which currently houses three black sea bass and one tautog.

“We are always excited to be able to share new animals with our guests, but this lobster is particularly special,” said Bob Ramin, Chief Development Officer of National Aquarium and Executive Director of National Aquarium, Washington, DC. “Toby will be the perfect addition to our National Aquarium family.”

Meet Acclaimed Photographer/Instructor Henry Horenstein!

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What makes a great photographer like Henry Horenstein tick? Or how does he click such astonishingly beautiful and often highly abstract images of animals and sea life? The artist and RISD prof shares pro secrets this Thursday night at the Aquarium.

He’ll discuss the making of photo books Aquatics (2001) and Animalia (2008), and more.

Of Aquatics, The Boston Globe noted: “[Horenstein’s] carp and jellyfish are weightless and oddly graceful, suspended in warm and diffuse atmospheres.” Of Animalia, writer Owen Edwards raved, “Though most photographers are driven to find a new vision, even the best fail more often than they succeed. In [these images], Horenstein has succeeded to a dazzling degree, evading the abundant clichés of animal photography at every turn.”

Horenstein, author of more than 30 books of photography, including Honky Tonk, Close Relations, SHOW, and Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual, used by numerous schools and universities, is certainly best known for his unforgettable images of people, famous and obscure, images which capture subjects’ vulnerability (check out his portrait of a young Dolly Parton in Honky Tonk), authenticity and personal awkwardness (Close Relations chronicles his own people), and playful idiosyncrasies (SHOW takes us behind the curtains of burlesque performance).

“I’ve spent a career mostly photographing people, which can be fun, rewarding, instructive, and …often difficult. So many personalities and attitudes. Good and not so good. Fish and other marine life require no personal interaction, but they take on lives of their own,” Horenstein says. “Mostly I’m projecting, I’m sure, but it is very peaceful to watch and shoot marine life. So many amazing creatures—the way they are built, the way they behave.”

The hardest aspect of shooting underwater creatures? Patience.

“I am a nervous person and generally bouncing form one thing, place, to another. You can’t do this with marine life because you can’t pose them or control the surroundings. You have to wait and wait sometimes for hours until your subject does something you want…in the best light, with the best background, etc.” he explains.

All marine life shots were taken in aquariums and zoos, because, Horenstein says, “I’m too chicken to go underwater.”

Horenstein’s work has been displayed internationally–in museums, galleries, and public art installations.

Event Details

This Thursday Oct 20
6–7 p.m. Wine and cheese reception

7–9 p.m. Lecture at the National Aquarium’s Meyerhoff Auditorium (book signing to follow)

Cost: $5 for members, $5 for students, $10 for non-members or free with book purchase

Reservations are required; call 410-727-FISH (3474) to reserve

Or submit a fish or fishbowl-related personal short-short story to win two tickets!

Your Very Own Shark Week(end)

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This one’s just too good not to mention:  if you have a free half-day and a healthy abundance of bravery (oh yeah, and $250), you can spend this weekend tagging sharks off the coast of Ocean City, courtesy of the National Aquarium.

Sure, it’s educational (shark tagging helps scientists who study sharks’ migration, age and growth, and behavior). But it will probably also be pretty fun. The trip is led by Captain Mark Sampson, whose website is a hoot:  “The draw of shark fishing is the mystery and excitement of waiting and wondering what size and type of shark is working its way up the chum slick. A mako? A tiger? A monster or a minnow? When you’re messing with sharks, anything’s possible!”

We hope that “anything” doesn’t include being mauled by one of those aforementioned “monsters”…Sorry, just saw JAWS on the big screen for the first time thanks to the Charles’ revival series. Don’t mind me. Gather your chum pails and slather on the sunscreen; it’s time for you to have a shark saga of your very own.

(The details:  trips run either from 7 AM-noon, or 1-6 PM on both Saturday and Sunday. If you’re a member of the aquarium, it’ll cost you $200; for the rest of us, $250. To reserve a spot, call 410-727-FISH.)

Baltimore Rhino Makes A Splash

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In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a thousand-pound rhino living on the rocky land beside the Jones Falls River. It is a beautiful gray creature, awesome, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, and flat out surreal, positioned amid an urban setting.

People are starting to discover the beast, as they hike, bike, make out or smoke up, near the bucolic stream. “Wait, is that a rhino?” one guy asked himself aloud; another woman snapped a photo with her cell and texted a message.

To be clear: The rhino isn’t real, but looks so from afar. Chad Tyler, 29, exhibit designer at the National Aquarium, placed it there this spring. The artist sculpted the piece from foam and concrete, over a period of patient weeks, setting up studio in a Ruxton barn. Fishbowl talked to Chad about his process and vision for the unique, eco-conscious project he calls, “There’s a Rhinoceros in the River.”

FB: So, how did you become inspired to build this rhino for Baltimore?
CT: The Rhino was born of an idea originally conceived in the car while driving back to Chicago with Jowita (yo-v-ta), my amazing fiancé. Ever since we were introduced to the lower Jones Falls River valley when we moved here ten months ago, I have been in love with it. I have always been drawn to these landscapes that almost don’t seem to fit into their context, that challenge your expectations of the natural environment, and where the intersection of the manmade and nature is so seamless and integrated. Think Northerly Island in Chicago, a former airstrip, famously bulldozed overnight at the bequest of Mayor Daley. The airstrips are piled on the edge of the island, rebar, concrete, and all. Some of the old concrete lighting foundations still exist, some of the taxi-ways can be found buried by the tall grasses grown through its cracked pavement. …To me, the Jones Falls River is so much more interesting because of all its layers. Because it is this living thing, moving about the concrete rubble strewn about its banks, banging against stone walls meant to contain it–[flowing] beside and through old mills that borrowed its water to operate, underneath bridges built high to avoid being swept away…and eventually 70-feet beneath an eight-lane highway that borrows the rivers fluid design. A river seemingly obscured from view and unknown to many. The intersection of culture, history, and industry is great inspiration to me.

Having spent a number of years designing exhibits and experiences built around animals, water, and conservation, I have come to think a lot about the question of why people visit zoos and aquarium to view these animals. What is about this facilitated experience of nature that brings audiences back, time and time again? Why are we so often wrapped up, in love, with the iconic and exotic animals from the other side of the globe? I found myself in the library looking at the history of Baltimore, the Jones Falls River and the industrial development on its banks. I began to connect an interesting chronological correlation between the foundation of the Baltimore Zoo and the expansion of the cotton mills after the Civil War. The mills’ rapid growth and increased demand on the river, the manipulation of its banks, the construction of higher bridges; a certain destruction or manipulation of nature, and in kind a newfound desire to view exotic nature through the lens of a zoo, was really interesting to me.

Wait, why a rhino?!
My original idea was to sculpt or replicate a number of the world’s iconic animals. The panda bear, the giraffe, the hippo, the moose, a congress of antelope, the zebra, the rhinoceros, etc. convening on the banks of the Jones Falls as if to discuss the state of things. With obvious limitations I [singled out] the rhinoceros, the third largest terrestrial mammal, a seemingly solitary creature, built strong and yet possessing a certain compassion in its eye, almost sympathetic. I love some of the myth behind the rhino: Supposedly [adept] at detecting a fire, it runs into the forest and heroically stomps it out — a guardian to its neighbors.

What was your sculptural process like?
I began the process of sculpting the rhinoceros by first making a scale model out of plasticine, an oil-based clay. I then translated the model to a giant block of expanded polystyrene foam also known as EPS foam in a good friend’s barn in Ruxton. I basically whittled the big block of foam with a 16-inch hand saw, referencing back to the model, until I got it right. Once the form was complete, I coated it in a custom mix of glass-fiber-reinforced concrete to seal it and to create the details, color and texture.

What was the project’s hardest challenge?
Definitely the process of transporting it to the river and installing it. Once I finished with the concrete, I split the whole thing into three separate pieces. With the help, in total, of 15 volunteers across three evenings, we managed to move the pieces to the site, down a root-strewn, rocky slope, down a five foot flood wall, and across a hundred feet of boulder and gravel-laced river wash!

What do you hope viewers take away?
First and foremost, my hope with this project is to draw a smile to the face of the passersby. My hope is that once this happens, they may [stop and] see something they haven’t noticed before. I hope the project might encourage some to think differently about the river and our relationship to it… I would love if it has the ability to encourage some of the viewers to become advocates or stewards of the watershed through involvement in cleaning and protecting the river with an organization like Blue Water Baltimore. Getting involved by joining a trash pick-up event, an invasive species clearing day, or maybe by marking the storm drains on your block can help protect the watershed and continue to build an enduring relationship with the river.

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