On the First Day, God Created Invertebrates
Today was my first day in full volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium. It was less structured than I had expected, but still fun- fun to be among the sea creatures, and fun to share with people and kids about everything. Highlights included:
- Getting to see the seastars fed. Bits of frozen mussels were thrown in. It was very exciting. In a matter of about five minutes some of their tube feet moved, and three of them had some arms move a couple inches. In sea star life, that's just speed causing reckless endangerment.
- Spending time at PCR, the Pacific Coral Reef exhibit, where tropical Pacific fish are brought in. It's the only exhibit at the aquarium not using local water, and contains a number of species I'm familiar with from Hawaii, where I started this marine road. So it's a bit like coming home. Got to share with people coming up a little about the creatures there, like Black-tipped Reef Sharks, and how much more likely it is to die from an attack from a vending machine than it is from a shark.
- Watching Andromeda and Kracken, the 25 lb. female and male Giant Pacific Octopi, get fed. Kracken is very shy, and always hides in his cave. (You would too if you were a major predator and were that close to the female of your species. Females of large species that eat meat can never be trusted.) But he came out for the intellectual stimulation. Because octopi are so intelligent, they need to have their minds stimulated too, so a jar was thrown in with food inside it. Kracken slowly stretched his arms out, and grabbed the jar- and the net and pole holding the jar. After some effort the net was pulled away, and Kracken surrounded the jar with his webbing, so we couldn't see what was happening. Underneath, his beak was slowly working at the jar, along with his suction cups and arms, until suddenly we saw his arm writhing into the jar. Andromeda on the other hand is a show-off, and loves the attention, spreading her arms and webbing for all to see (no shame). She grabbed the bait- and then grabbed the stick and wouldn't let go. It took a few minutes before the human with the stick finally won the battle, but Andromeda then didn't get to play with opening the jar- she'd played enough on the human.
- The best part was just near the end of my shift, when I noticed a woman in hijab next to me. I greeted her husband with the Islamic greeting, and asked if he spoke Arabic. When he said he did, I asked where from and...we had a wonderful ten minutes talking in Moroccan Arabic! I got to share some with him and his extended family, including the kids, about nijma d'libhar, the seastar, describing different animals in Arabic, as well as learn new words I hadn't known. (I believe sea urchin was something like coucoud al bahara- porcupine of the sea.) I described to the kids about the urchin jaw, how it was the most complicated jaw and strongest jaw in the animal kingdom, and let them see one, telling them to treat it with great respect. Then we traded digits, and I got invited over to tajine sometime. So looking forward to that!