MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kissed by an Octopus for Valentine's Day

A visit to the Oregon Coast is not complete without a trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and for someone like me that loves to visit aquariums, this visit could not have been more special.  I don't know what it is about a good aquarium that makes me so happy; sure there are colorful fish, there are the silly antics of marine mammals and there is always something to learn, but the great aquariums, like Monterey, Baltimore, offer something extra special... and that is what I found here at the Aquarium in Newport, Oregon.

The volunteer staff surprised my friend and I with a few unique experiences.  It began as soon as we arrived, when we meandered to the "touch-me-tank".  Feeding time, and I finally got to see those creatures in motion.  Better yet, I was allowed to feed an abalone; the ribbony black lips reached out,  grasped a piece of kelp and pulled it inside its half shell.  It was too cute!  The lips were soft, slightly sticky but surprisingly strong.  Another danced for us by rotating 180 degrees on its foot.  Yet another abalone was eating while stationed on a glass wall; this afforded us an opportunity to watch and we even got to see its tongue.

It was at this tank where we spoke with the volunteers about the aquarium, my mission to visit, and the plan for the weekend and some knowledge about the facility and its creatures.  The volunteers provided us guidance on where to head next, and we ventured off to find the shark tunnels and the scuba divers cleaning the tanks.  Along the way we stumbled upon the art exhibit showcasing plastic pollution recovered from the oregon coast.  The artist created coral reefs, sea creatures and mosaics (as well as showcasing some work from children), and while the creations were fun and full of storybook whimsy, the point was made - the ocean is not a garbage can ... that trash ends up somewhere.

It was here in the tunnels that the volunteers found us.  They offered us the experience to beat all other aquarium experiences... because we traveled so far, were so excited about the aquarium and interested in the exhibits, they wanted to do something special.  We were shocked... and it was then I noticed that my camera was missing.  YEP, here I am being offered an unique aquarium experience and my camera decided to take a walk.  Volunteer and friends scoured the area, but it was not to be found.  (And I knew that I just had it).  The volunteer promised to keep looking and assured me that they recovered most lost and found items.  So off we went to this special experience without my camera.

We were taken into a room with floor to ceiling windows with a view into the shark tank.  Here we received a quick lesson in shark biology (pointing out the male shark graspers).  I was loving every minute... but this was not THE experience... they had more planned.  We were headed to the octopus exhibit for a hands-on experience, and I was without my camera.  =-(  Thankfully my friend had a droid camera phone and snapped a few shots.

We needed it, because once taken into the back of the exhibit we washed our hands and arms in salt water, and the octopus was called up.  Yep, you read that right - she, aka Peanut, came right up when the volunteer took her spot.  With clear instructions on the do's and don'ts of tentacle interaction, my friend and I were allowed to touch and be touched.

Have you ever felt an octopus???  Well, I can tell you that they are cold, a little slimy and very fleshy.  The suction cups do not hurt.  They don't even pull.  But, when they are pulled off skin, they sound like bubble wrap popping.  They whole experience was surreal.  We learned lots of cool octopus facts and experienced first hand out inquisitive the creatures are... Since they can smell with their suckers, the tentacles roamed our hands and arms, and even found their way up my coat.  I was amazed with the amount of control each cup had; while sliding over my fingers cups would wrap around the tips - kinka like holding hands.

After the octopus experience, the volunteer guided us around a few unique smaller exhibits, such as the wolf eel and the hagfish (nasty - think vultures of the deep).  While walking around with the expert, we were notified that my camera was found.

JUST AMAZING!  Loved this place... if you visit Oregon, this is a must see.

All other aspects of the central coast trip were cancelled.  A major storm was hitting the coast as we left the facility.  Driving rains and winds topping out over 70+ miles/hour does not make for great sightseeing weather.  We tried a few coastal viewpoints and state park points of interest, but it was impossible to do anything but look at the views through the window wipers.  I would jump out of the car, snap a shot or two and run back to safety... it really was too much wind.

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