Jan. 24, 2018
It’s beginning to look a lot like an aquarium over there now. Visitors to the zoo see a high roofline; people passing by on Five Mile Drive see fish scale facades, window insets and the space for our glass artwork. The crane is gone, and the tanks have come, including the enormous Baja Bay where our sea turtles, rays and sharks will live. But before they move in there’s still a lot to be done. Catch up with where our aquarium is now.
Brand-new to the zoo is the Baja Bay exhibit, a 250,000-gallon tank that will hold our green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and scalloped hammerhead sharks. When the aquarium is open, this view will be one that our aquarists will see as they monitor and feed the animals.
Visitors will have two viewpoints: the huge half-tunnel window on the lower level, and a shark’s-eye view from the other side, up above.
And inside the black plastic? That’s an artificial seamount waiting to be poured with concrete and covered with “coral”.
The aquarium’s pipe system is incredibly complex. Pipes for electricity and multiple water systems are layered like spaghetti with the precision of a computer motherboard.
Complicated diagrams gave the building crew instructions on which pipe had to go in next.
Most of the pipes are behind-the-scenes, and won’t be visible to visitors.
Support columns in the Northwest Waters and Tidal Touch Zone areas will be encrusted with sculpted “barnacles” – a nod to the many barnacled pilings just downhill on the Tacoma waterfront.
Northwest Waters will highlight Pacific Northwest marine life, replacing the 55-year-old North Pacific Aquarium community tank.
The Tidal Touch Zone will replace the NPA’s Marine Discovery Center as a hands-on area where visitors can touch and explore tidal creatures like sea stars and urchins.
Meanwhile, outside the building, sand-blasted, graphite-rubbed fish seem to swim across the concrete walls on the side of the aquarium close to the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater.
Swimming in one direction, they seem to lead visitors into the aquarium’s entrance. Inside, a special exhibit of actual schooling herring will race round and round in a blur of silver.
On another exterior wall, visible from Five Mile Drive below, facade cladding is designed to look like giant aqua fish scales – a nod both to nearby Puget Sound, and the amazing marine creatures inside the Pacific Seas Aquarium.
– Rosemary Ponnekanti, PDZA