Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Busan Aquarium, Korea: Underwater, Underground

The way in which I have been persistently pelted with rain today in Jukjeon reminds me of fonder memories on Haeundae Beach only a few weekends ago. It was gorgeous weather in Busan for that weekend, and the weather today near Seoul would make you think that you were on a different planet altogether. Nonetheless, it's the diversity of landscapes and weather that makes Korea so unique, and of course, exciting to explore. While Haeundae Beach provided splendid weather for the people above ground, others were experiencing the calm, dimly lit chambers of the Busan Aquarium below the ground. My parents, Bri, and I decided enjoy the soothing rays of the beach for a moment, and then retreat underground to view innumerable species of fish. It is quite a peculiar feeling to see the ocean in front of you, then proceed to stop short of it and head into a building to satisfy all your fish viewing needs. Normally, one would usually head directly for the ocean. However, with over 3 million litres of water, one might say that the Busan Aquarium boasted an ocean sized quantity of water anyhow. You enter the building and pay your fare, then head down the escalator where you'll quickly find out that the Busan Aquarium means business.
Start here.
Go here.
End Here; Begin thorough enjoyment of the Busan Aquarium

 While nobody would insinuate that I am a fish aficionado, I enjoy viewing ocean life as much as the next fellow, or perhaps even a little more. Furthermore, I haven't spent my entire existence browsing the aquariums of the world, but I know a quality aquarium when I see one, and this place had not only quality, but remarkable quantity. How much quantity, you ask? Well, that's an excellent question. The astonishing answer is that the Busan Aquarium, according to the official site of Korean tourism, has over 35,000 beings on display including "fish, algae, reptiles, and amphibians." Of these 35,000, there are an incredible 250 different species. It certainly doesn't hurt that Korea built a state of the art facility in which to house them in. Planning began for the Busan Aquarium in the year 1997 and construction commenced on the brink of the new millennium. True to form, efficient Korean construction had the aquarium up and running by 2001, and the 1 millionth visitor walked in the door in only 2002. As Kevin Costner learned in Field of Dreams, "If you build it, he will come." And as I will now add on, "...and he will not be disappointed."

It's rather difficult to be disappointed when you have the option of viewing over 40 different exhibits. Surely, if the first exhibit didn't tickle your fancy, then perhaps you could find your marine life niche in exhibit number 31, or maybe 38. As I mentioned before, you have to go underground to take in these assorted displays, and there are in fact three underground levels in all. As talking about fish is not nearly as enjoyable as looking at them, let me give you a sample of some of the exhibits I encountered while sauntering through the appreciable aquarium. I'll begin by showing you a picture of the "ugliest fish in the world" according to no one but myself.

A "Napoleon Fish." Napoleon must be rolling in his grave.
A strange being with a strange name. Known as the "Red Qurnard"
Presumably a type of "Convict Benny." A sort of eel possibly.
A "Brutal Moray." A sort of eel definitely. 

As you can see, there was an eclectic and eccentric collection of fish at the Busan Aquarium. I can rarely recall ever being so entertained at an aquarium before. Although that's probably because when I was a child I was just bitter that I could only watch the fish, and not actually get to play with them. Overall, I was the most intrigued by the selection of jelly fish that was available for viewing. I was able to get a great video up close in a cylindrical tank of spotted and coloured jellyfish. It's really fascinating to watch the way in which they flutter about the tank. My dad aptly notes towards the end of the video that they almost look like "hearts beating." I couldn't help but be reminded of those octopus-like machines from the movie The Matrix, which constantly seem to be attacking ships to no avail. Take a look for yourself and see what you think. 'Tis always better to form your own opinion!

Well, I waited a significant amount of time for that video to upload, so I hope that you appreciated it. I may have to get an aquarium full of those creatures at some point in my life, but I'm a tad worried that I'd waste days away watching them. Not to mention, I have no idea what jellyfish eat, or how they eat for that matter.

It wasn't just the sheer selection of marine life that made a visit to the Busan Aquarium worthwhile. It was the effort and attention to detail in displaying these marvelous creatures that set it all apart. For example, one section boasts an enormous tank that spans several floors with over 80 metres of clear plexiglass. It's impossible to capture in a photograph, but here's to trying.

There is also another massive tank that houses a large collection of sharks and manta rays. Interestingly, you can pay extra to go in a boat and feed the sharks, as well as actually go diving with them. There were an immense amount of sharks, manta rays and other fish all together in one tank. I always wonder why all these fish can seemingly live in harmony in those tanks when it looks like the sharks could massacre every other creature in there. Anyway, it would be costly for the aquarium if such an event were ever to occur, but also incredibly entertaining if you happened to be there. A tunnel runs throughout the, tank giving you unprecedented vantage points. It feels as if you've gone for a stroll on the ocean floor.

It should be noted that the first picture shows my parents walking through this underground tunnel as a shark casually swims by on the left hand side. Now there's a story for your friends, mom and dad! After all, it's the stories and memories that we get to cherish most at the end of the day. Writing blogs about these mini-adventures constantly reminds me not to take anything for granted, and also gives me an opportunity for reflection. I suppose I initially started this blog to record memories abroad that I held dear to me. Now, conversely, it seems that I am constantly striving for more experiences to write about. What I know is that what I write, record, and reflect on in this blog is something that has occurred in my life, and something I can learn from. It's great to share these stories, because more and more I realize that, added together, they constitute who I really am, and give a fairly good indication of my attitude towards life. With an optimistic outlook, unwavering principles, and an ambitious attitude, there's nothing this world can throw at you that you can't internalize and grow from. And to think, I realized all of that from an aquarium.


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