“People protect what they love.” Those words were originally spoken by legendary ocean explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau, a man who spent much of life beneath the surface of the world’s oceans.
Most of us do not have that opportunity but we still seek an understanding of the ocean and Moody Gardens in Galveston is giving the public a chance to gain that knowledge in an up close and personal setting.
In 2017 Moody Gardens debuted $37 million in upgrades that have turned the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid into a true world-class educational experience.Here is what stood out from my numerous visits.
Up Close Look At Oceans
Gulf of Mexico Rig Exhibit: See the balance of technology and nature through this impressive 30,000 gallon, two-story, 23-foot scale model oil production platform aquarium. These manmade islands provide valuable attachment surfaces for a variety of encrusting organisms to create an entire reef ecosystem found throughout the Gulf of Mexico. This new exhibit includes diver communication for presentations and interaction, further engaging guests in their underwater experience.
Flower Gardens Tribute: With help from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, guests experience the East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank and Stetson Bank up close and personal. The exhibit includes examples of Brain, Star and Elkhorn coral, to name a few, all of which can be seen on the banks. The Flower Garden Banks reef system is one of the healthiest in the Gulf and Caribbean regions. It is truly one of the most incredible places to be found in all oceans.
Caribbean Display Upgrades: New to the exhibit is The Pride, a 19th century rum-runner shipwreck replica, loosely based on the vessel sailed by famed Galveston pirate Jean Lafitte. Divers spent a total of 68.5 hours underwater putting together the ship, which arrived in about 75 individual pieces. A new mangrove lagoon greets visitors at the Caribbean entrance where they get to touch cownose rays and see southern stingrays and spiny lobsters.
Humboldt Penguins: These unique warm-climate penguins hail from Southern Hemisphere waters from the Antarctic to the Equator. This is the second penguin exhibit at Moody Gardens and the Humboldts are right next door to the South Atlantic Penguin Habitat, home to the King, Gentoo, Chinstrap, Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins. As part of the recent renovations, the South Atlantic Penguin Habitat is newly enhanced to better benefit guests and the health and livelihood of the penguins within.
Jellyfish Gallery: The room wasn’t quite finished when I visited but what I saw of the jellyfish gallery was stunning. See some of the most beautifully designed creatures in nature in a perfectly lit environment. The highlight for visitors will no doubt be the touch tank-the world’s first opportunity to touch jellyfish in an aquarium-a non stinging variety of course.
There is much more including improvements to virtually every display, numerous new educational display and an impressive computer table display that shows full-scale giant squid size, explains ocean depth and other interesting facts.
If someone already loves the ocean a visit here will help build that into a full-blown passion but any kid (or kid at heart) who pays a visit will walk away with enough information and inspiration to want to help conserve our ocean resources.
Jacques Cousteau would be proud.
Chester Moore, Jr.