Archive for the 'We’re Glad You Asked' Category

National Aquarium Stays Safe During Hurricane Sandy

Good Morning! All is well at the National Aquarium. Despite several strong wind gusts of between 60-70 mph through the night, our building and animal care facilities sustained NO damage! We are pleased to report that all of our animals and staff are safe and are getting back to their regular morning care routines. THANK YOU to our amazing, dedicated staff, especially the 21 staff who stayed overnight with our animals, and to Baltimore City Police and Fire for checking up on us and ensuring our safety. We are grateful to the community for sending us positive vibes! Hope everyone is safe this morning, and we are keeping our east coast neighbors in our thoughts today.

Our preparations for the weather began last week as our emergency team gathered managers from other essential departments such as biological programs and facilities. The larger team met to discuss our plans for the incoming storm. Many lessons were learned following our experience with Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

The line marking where Hurricane Isabel flooded our Baltimore venue in 2003

Even though the storm wasn’t set to hit until Sunday/Monday, our team took immediate preventative actions starting on Friday,  to prepare:

  • Aquarium vehicles and boats were moved to high and dry areas.
  • Flags and banners on our piers were taken down.
  • Facilities topped off generator fuel for generator use, if needed.
  • Outdoor equipment and materials, including construction items for our Blacktip Reef project, were secured or moved to safe internal areas.
  • Buckets of water and ice were made and stored.
  • Sufficient oxygen supplies were gathered and staged strategically throughout animal areas.
  • We also worked closely with the Baltimore City Police and Fire departments. We were happy to see them frequently thought the day and night yesterday for coffee and conversation – all other Inner Harbor coffee cafes were closed.
National Aquarium vehicles

National Aquarium vehicles on high ground in preparation for Hurricane Sandy

ice buckets

5 gallon ice buckets

At our Animal Care Center, our staff worked closely to determine all husbandry needs for both our quarantine animals and the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) animals. Like at our main building, separate oxygen supplies were placed throughout the facility. Our team’s main concern were our blacktip reef sharks and stingrays destined for our new Blacktip Reef exhibit opening in summer 2013. Detailed plans for monitoring and administering sufficient oxygen for these animals were in place in the case of loss of power or life support systems. Our lizards and turtles are a bit more forgiving in these situations because they are air breathers, but our team still had plans in place for them as well to continue their comfortable, temperature controlled environments.

oxygen preparation

Aquarium staff prepping extra oxygen tanks

After carefully considering weather reports and information from local and state officials, the decision was made to close our Baltimore and Washington, DC venues to the public on Monday. Our number one priority is the safety of our animals and staff. Our emergency plans continued at this time, starting with the raising of our built-in flood gates.
flood gates

Aquarium staff work to prepare flood gates in Baltimore.

flood gates

Outdoor flood gates preparing for Hurricane Sandy

A critical team of 21 staff, including two team members at our Animal Care Center, prepared to stay overnight with our animals and guard against rising water and other possible emergencies. We closely monitored the water levels outside and reconvened for regular reports throughout the night. Winds were high, getting up to 60-70 mph between 11:00pm and 1:00am but our team, and animals, were safe inside riding out the storm! It was a long night but staff moral was high.
sleeping fish

Shhh! The animals are sleeping!

This morning, as we reported, we had no damage or issues to report! We continued to watch as high tide came and went and early morning husbandry tasks have already started taking place.
green sea turtle

Calypso enjoying a hearty post-hurricane breakfast!

We are pleased to say National Aquarium will be open tomorrow, Wednesday, October 31.
Again, we are truly grateful to our dedicated staff, as well as Baltimore City Police and Fire departments for checking in on us and ensuring our safety. We are also grateful to our online community who provided an outpouring of support and positive thoughts throughout the storm. We hope everyone is safe this morning and we are keeping our east coast neighbors affected by the storm in our thoughts.

Thoughtful Thursday: Save our finned friends!

If you love sharks, like us, you most likely have a case of Shark Week fever! Sharks have been swimming in the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years (since before the dinosaurs).

Although Discovery Channel’s annual event has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning sales of fin headbands and shark costumes for pets, this special week also brings the important issue of shark conservation to the forefront of people’s minds. These beautiful and amazing creatures might be scary to some, but their numbers are dwindling at an even scarier rate. As many as one-third of shark species are headed for extinction if we don’t act now.

In the 31 years the National Aquarium, Baltimore, has been open, sharks have gone from a commercial fishery the federal government declared underutilized to the brink of extinction. In that time, hammerhead shark populations in the Atlantic have decreased by nearly 93%. Since 1986, all recorded shark populations in the northwestern Atlantic, with the exception of mako sharks, have declined by more than 50%.

Scientists warn that continual overfishing of sharks has decimated the population, which cannot sustain the current rates. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species estimates that 30% of open ocean sharks are threatened with extinction.

Below are just a few easy ways you can support our finned friends:

Join the Shark Week Facebook, Twitter Campaign
Show your support and join the Shark Week thunderclap. Through this online platform, shark fans can lend their voice to the cause and spread the word about protecting sharks from extinction.

Protest Shark Fin Soup
Every year, fins from tens of millions of sharks are used for this traditional, non-nutritional meal. Many species have been depleted nearly to the brink of extinction. Research shows that the massive depletion of sharks has cascading effects throughout the ocean’s ecosystems. Locally, the depletion of sandbar sharks has caused an increase in cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay, which threatens the oyster industry. You can help by signing the Humane Society’s No Shark Fin Pledge.

Petition to List Great White Sharks Under the Endangered Species Act 
Great white sharks are disappearing. Help U.S. West Coast great whites get the protection they need by signing the Oceana petition.

Participate in a Shark Tagging Trip
Come aboard a National Aquarium shark tagging trip! Tagging sharks provides scientists with information on stock identity, migration and abundance, age and growth, mortality, and behavior. Although our 2012 trips are sold out, we encourage you to sign up for a 2013 trip! Next year’s dates will be announced in spring 2013. 

Winter visitors to Maryland

While humans may not appreciate the benefit of a cold, brisk day outside (much like it has been in Maryland lately), there are some animals that certainly enjoy the cold weather in Maryland… seals!

Every winter we receive questions from Marylanders about groups of seals spotted along the coast for extended periods of time, wondering if this is a common occurence or something officials should be monitoring. We’re very glad you asked, and happy to share more information about seals.

Seals are seasonal visitors to Maryland during the winter months, and will even travel as far south as North Carolina. They prefer a cold-water environment and often travel south from subarctic areas in the winter months.

These mammals are semi-aquatic, which means they like to spend part of the time in the water, and part of the time on land. They will typically spend multiple days swimming south, only to haul out on beaches, rocks or docks to rest for 24 hours or more. Seals will also haul out on exceptionally stormy or sunny days – this gives them a chance to wait out the stormy seas or soak up some warm sun, depending on the weather.

If you’re lucky enough to see a seal on the beach in Maryland, it’s best to give the animal a lot of space – at least 100 feet, or about the length of six standard cars – and stay downwind of the animal if possible. Disturbing seals by making them change locations or flee back into the water is against the law, as they are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Aside from being illegal to approach them, it is in your best interest to keep your distance! Even though they look very cute and innocent, we must remember that they are wild animals. Take a look at the teeth on this furry guy:

So how do you know if a seal is just resting or possibly stranded? A healthy, resting seal will typically be resting in a “banana position,” on its side with its head or rear flippers in the air, like this:

A seal that is entangled in marine debris or has physical wounds and may be in need of medical attention will often be resting flat on its stomach. If you see a seal that may be in need of medical attention, please call the National Aquarium’s Stranding Hotline at 410-373-0083, or Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944.

By all means, enjoy watching the seals and take plenty of pictures, but please do not disturb them – they have had a long commute from the north!

We’re glad you asked!

Welcome to the first post in our new “We’re Glad You Asked” category of Waterlog. Like many tourist attractions, we field a ton of questions from visitors. Visitor feedback is important to us and we do our best to answer each and every question that comes our way. For this reason, we have decided to share answers to interesting or frequently asked questions on our blog so they can be discussed with all of our fans and followers!

First up is the ever-popular question, why aren’t strollers allowed at the National Aquarium?

An expert traveler who goes by the name of “travel mommy” recently posted a letter on her blog about strollers that caught our eye, and mentioned that

the stroller is a mother’s secret weapon. It can turn any cranky child into a sleeping angel. It can convert the most anxious of babies into a calm and quiet infant. It is a magical tool of parenting—one of the reasons that we all own one!”

We take pride in knowing that the National Aquarium is a family venue, and we really do understand that strollers are an important part of family travel. So why would we ban strollers from our buildings? The answer is quite simple. The design of our buildings does not allow for strollers, and allowing them would cause major safety concerns.

If you’ve been to the Aquarium, you know that our buildings are filled with people movers and escalators. The layout of the main Aquarium building is a walking tour with movers at the end of each level to take people to the next floor. Most strollers are too large to even fit on the movers and escalators. And even if they did fit, having strollers and people in the galleries would cause major traffic flow and safety concerns.

Our number one priority is visitor safety, and our number two priority is making sure visitors enjoy their experience at the Aquarium. Our solution? If you do bring a stroller, Aquarium staff will store it for you and provide a backpack or frontpack child-carrier. The higher vantage point will also provide your children with a better view of many exhibits.

This may not be an ideal solution for all of the parents out there, but it is the only way for us to create a safe and enjoyable experience for all who visit the National Aquarium.

Have an interesting question or concern? Please e-mail us at and maybe your question will be answered here!

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