Oh, I see! moments
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The Awe-Inspiring Monterey Bay Aquarium

by Eva Boynton on November 28, 2016

Silhouettes of people visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, showing the awe-inspiring experiences from two sides of the glass (image © Sam Anaya A.).

Travelers embark on a journey to another world.
© Sam Anaya A.

Worlds Connect Through a Sheet of Glass

The sea is as near as we come to another world.*

Imagine entering a forest of moons, alien ellipses all floating and pulsing with color in a dark blue environment. Their long arms extend, overlapping like tangled branches in a floating forest. Welcome to the world of jellies, one that seems light-years away from our own.

Sea nettle Jellies swimming at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, showing awe-inspiring experiences that connect travelers to different worlds (image © Sam Anaya A.).

Watch these jellies long enough, and you will be transported to another world.
© Sam Anaya A.

We often travel to discover a world different, distant, and new. We search for surprise, intrigue, and awe from foreign landscapes. But here at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, an awe-inspiring world is just on the opposite side of the glass.

Plunge Right In

In travel,  jumping right in to a new place often reveals immediate and eye-opening surprises.

I start my travels in the Monterey Bay Aquarium that way.  Walking past the entrance, underneath goliath sculptures of grey whales and orcas, I check my map. It says I can stay to the shoreline and work my way gradually to the deep canyon exhibit. But I decide to plunge right in, and head first to the giant tank that captures a piece of the open ocean.

Pacific sardines swimming in a ceiling tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, illustrating awe-inspiring worlds (image © Sam Anaya A.).

Silver lights swirl above, Pacific Sardines mimic a whirlpool.
© Sam Anaya A.

The environment in the aquarium changes and a deep blue quiets all travelers. Space opens up, and the tank’s wall of windows reveals another world. Though my feet are on terra firma, all senses tell me I’ve been submerged into the open ocean.

An open ocean exhibit with the silhouettes of visitors in front at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, showing what kind of awe-inspiring connections made to an underwater world (image © Sam Anaya A.).

Travelers pause to take in the destination. 
© Sam Anaya A.

My legs and arms are dappled with light from above, just like the sea life I see in front of me. A Green Sea Turtle slowly glides to my left, and a school of Pacific Mackerel swims toward me as if they will cross the glass border and pass me by. Plunging right into the aquarium at these deep-water tanks struck me with awe and inspired me to keep traveling.

Explore the Depths

Traveling gives us an opportunity to explore the depths of life in another place. Looking past the glass barriers, I let the open ocean take me on a journey into a deep blue that resembles a world of zero gravity. I press my face against the glass to get a better look at a Cross Jelly.

A tiny jelly at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, showing the awe-inspiring moments from a world that resembles outer space (image © Sam Anaya A.).

In this world, aliens and UFOs are real.
© Sam Anaya A.

This little spaceship, lit by a bioluminescent band around its edge, floats through the stars. Its muscles contract and relax to pulse through the water, as if sending a Morse code to us humans on the other side of the glass.

A moon jelly at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, showing how awe-inspiring moments can be collected when visiting another world (image © Sam Anaya A.).

This moon rises and sets with a skirt of tentacles.
© Sam Anaya A.

I let go of my footing on Earth and let the ebb and flow of the ocean current carry me. To my right, Moon Jellies drift by like lunar dancers suspended in time. Suddenly they pulse their translucent bodies to change direction. I feel that same sense of awe that travelers feel when they immerse themselves in a new world.

Appreciate the Unknown

When we travel with an open perspective, a foreign environment can be beautiful, elegant and, extraordinary, allowing us to appreciate differences, make connections, and learn something new. My trip to the aquarium was just that.

A squid swimming in an exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, showing what kind of awe-inspiring moments that take place in a different kind of world (image © Sam Anaya A.).

Life underwater dances, glides, swirls, swims, and sways. 
© Sam Anaya A.

When I met a Big Fin Reef Squid, it was hard to make a personal connection. These alien ballerinas, translucent dancers all, ripple their tutus and shoot air to propel them backwards.

While I try to make sense of these unbelievable creatures, a five-year-old boy approached the glass and said, “Aw, look at these little cuties!” This little traveler’s sense of wonder and curiosity surpassed barriers, seeing another species just as worthy as his own.

A pacific octopus changes colors in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, showing an awe-inspiring creature from another world (image © Sam Anaya A.).

Can you recognize the creature in the dark?
© Sam Anaya A.

I move on to the dark realm of the Giant Pacific Octopus. A master of disguise, this octopus transforms its color to match its surroundings.

I’m in awe. Right before my eyes, I see colors change from a silver grey to a dark maroon red. With the color change complete, the octopus lifts off the rocks and descends like a red parachute to the glass that separates our worlds. I put my hands to the hard surface, hoping to feel the suction cups that unfurl across the glass.

These two creatures move, look, and live so differently than me, but still I can find a connection and appreciate the ocean’s infinite variations.

Oh, I See the Travel Connections

Traveling is about making awe-inspiring connections with different worlds. The Monterey Bay Aquarium transports us as travelers to an underwater world while still breathing our own air. Though separated from that world by glass, travelers feel a part of it.

In front of the towering kelp forest, volunteer Christine clarifies for us another important connection: “Just remember, everything ends up at the beach.”

Just as new worlds affect us (and we are often never the same), the people and places we meet on our travels are equally affected by us. As travelers we must acknowledge that effect—the “glass” that separates our worlds is actually much thinner than we think.

Visitors in front of the kelp forest exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, showing an awe-inspiring interaction between worlds (image © Sam Anaya A.).

When worlds connect, neither is the same thereafter.
© Sam Anaya A.

*These apt words appear at the entrance of the Open Ocean exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, whom we thank for its constant efforts to connect our worlds.  And thank you, Scott Stratton, for connecting me with the aquarium.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


3 thoughts on “The Awe-Inspiring Monterey Bay Aquarium

  1. Amazing. It has been many years since I visited this water world. I was awed then and am awed now. Thank you for the tour.

  2. I love to sit beside the kelp forrest – that big tube open to the tides and waves. It is a breathing living thing that makes me feel calm.

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