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Oregon Coast Aquarium
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OREGON COAST AQUARIUM: PASSAGES OF THE DEEP
Underwater tunnel brings visitors UNDER the sea

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is constantly striving to find new and entertaining ways to educate its visitors about the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship, while providing a unique visitor experience. The Aquarium has recently unveiled its newest and most ambitious expansion project to date, the Passages of the Deep exhibit. This state-of-the-art exhibit immerses visitors in three undersea habitats found off the Oregon coast, where they discover the diverse marine life found there. *** Overall Description: Showcasing the diverse marine life found off the Oregon coast, the Passages of the Deep exhibit features three large ocean habitats, connected by a 200-foot underwater tunnel. This world-class exhibit provides a deep-sea adventure where visitors stroll through the center of a large, 1.32-million gallon tank in an acrylic tunnel surrounded by seawater. Suspended eight feet below the water’s surface and eight feet above the bottom, the tunnel gives visitors the feeling of walking beneath the ocean. With large viewing windows incorporated into the floor, visitors enjoy nearly 360-degree views. The first habitat, Orford Reef, features a rocky reef where large wolf-eels, octopus, rockfishes and surfperch reside. Surging waves cause kelp to sway to and fro near the acrylic tunnel. In the next habitat, Halibut Flats, visitors walk above the sandy ocean bottom where halibut, skates and other animals glide gracefully nearby. An Oregon shipwreck gives this exhibit an authentic feel. The last habitat is called the Open Sea, where visitors encounter seldom-seen sharks, rays and schooling fishes. *** The visitor experience: As visitors walk towards the Passages of the Deep exhibit they enter the South Exhibit Lobby, which describes the abundant marine life found in the open ocean and serves as a prelude to what’s to come. Upon entering the walk-through tunnel, visitors first experience southern Oregon’s “Orford Reef” in a large 200,000-gallon exhibit. Surging waves cause a forest of kelp to gently sway back and forth in the current. A rocky reef looms in the middle distance, with colorful sea stars and giant green anemones visible on the boulders. Large wolf-eels, surfperch, starry flounders, rockfishes and greenlings can be seen swimming among the many rock outcroppings. Further along, the opaque floor gives way to a window underfoot. Here visitors can look straight down to the ocean floor. The big tunnel then veers off into the second section. “Halibut Flats” is a dramatic, 275,000-gallon exhibit. Walking just above the sandy bottom, visitors notice many fishes on the ocean floor, including Pacific halibut, big skates, cabezon and many other animals gracefully gliding nearby. Rockfishes, lingcod and schooling sablefish swim above and below the tunnel. A sunken shipwreck rests on the rocks and sandy bottom with the ever-present rockfish hanging out around it. The shipwreck gives the visitor the feeling of what it might have been like to be an early diver exploring just offshore. After another transition, which announces the open sea part of the exhibit, the background recedes into the darkness. An impressive, 850,000-gallon “Open Sea” exhibit is the finale of the visitors’ deep-sea adventure. Here they quickly spot sharks and other Pacific species swimming slowly by. Like deep-sea explorers, visitors watch thousands of fishes swimming on all sides. A school of spiny dogfish sharks is all around. An interpretive brochure helps identify the species that swim above and below. Looming sharks, including soupfin, leopard and sevengill, give visitors a sense of the many unusual creatures found in the open sea. Predators like yellowtail jack, jackmackerel, and coho and chinook salmon, plus longnose skates and bat rays, are just some of the animals found here. Visitors linger to admire the mysterious creatures of the open ocean and are astonished by the sharks' ancient, otherworldly appearance. As visitors near the end of the 200-foot tunnel, they realize that this third section has been the largest of the three—the striking lighting and receding walls give the illusion of an endless ocean environment. When visitors leave the tunnel they enter the North Lobby, which houses a gift shop, restrooms and an Event Room. The Event Room is used for a variety of special activities and features spectacular viewing opportunities, including a large viewing window that looks back into the impressive “Open Sea” exhibit and a private terrace overlooking the picturesque Yaquina Bay. *** Cost: $6.9 million Groundbreaking: December 1998 Grand opening: Memorial Day weekend 2000 Total size: 1.32 million gallons, with a 200-foot suspended tunnel snaking through the center. Pool dimensions: 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 26 feet deep. Number of animals: 3,5000+ Number of species: 50+ Targeted species list: Orford Reef -- Black rockfish, Sebastes melanops Blue rockfish, Sebastes mystinus Brown smoothhound shark, Mustelus henlei Canary rockfish, Sebastes pinniger China rockfish, Sebastes nebulosus Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch Copper rockfish, Sebastes caurinus Dungeness crab, Cancer magister Flag rockfish, Sebastes rubrivinctus Giant green anemone, Anthopleura xanthogrammica Giant sea star, Pisaster giganteus Greenstripe rockfish, Sebastes elongatus Kelp greenling, Hexagrammos decagrammus Kelp rockfish, Sebastes atrovirens Leopard shark, Triakis semifasciata Ochre sea star, Pisasater ochraceus Oregon Cancer crab, Cancer oregonensis Painted greenling, Oxylebius pictus Purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purparatus Quillback rockfish, Sebastes maliger Red anemone, Tealia sp. Red Irish lord, Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus Red sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus Redbanded rockfish, Sebastes babcocki Redtail surfperch, Amphistichus rhodoterus Shiner perch, Cymatogaster aggregata Spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias Striped surfperch, Embiotoca lateralis Sunflower sea star, Pycnopodia helianthoides Tiger rockfish, Sebastes nigrocinctus Vermillion rockfish, Sebastes miniatus Walleye surfperch, Hyperprosopon argenteum Wolf-eel, Anarrhichthys ocellatus Halibut Flats -- Big skate, Raja binoculata Black rockfish, Sebastes melanops Blue rockfish, Sebastes mystinus Canary rockfish, Sebastes pinniger Copper rockfish, Sebastes caurinus Cabezon, Scorpaenichthys marmoratus Darkblotched rockfish, Sebastes crameri Giant green anemone, Anthopleura xanthogrammica Giant sea star, Pisaster giganteus Lingcod, Ophiodon elongatus Longnose skate, Raja rhina Ochre sea star, Pisasater ochraceus Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis Petrale sole, Eopsetta jordani Purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purparatus Red anemone, Tealia sp. Red Irish lord, Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus Red sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus Redbanded rockfish, Sebastes babcocki Sablefish, Anoplopoma fimbria Shortspine thornyhead, Sebastolobus alascanus Silvergray rockfish, Sebastes brevispinis Spotted ratfish, Hydrolagus colliei Starry founder, Platichthys stellatus Starry skate, Raja stellulata Sunflower sea star, Pycnopodia helianthoides Tiger rockfish, Sebastes nigrocinctus Yelloweye rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus Yellowtail rockfish, Sebastes flavidus Open Sea -- Bat ray, Myliobatis californica Big skate, Raja binoculata Bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis Broadnose sevengill shark, Notorynchus cepidianus Cabezon, Scorpaenichthys marmoratus Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch Jackmackerel, Trachurus symmetricus Leopard shark, Triakis semifasciata Lingcod, Ophiodon elongatus Longnose skate, Raja rhina Northern anchovy, Engraulis mordax Ocean sunfish, Mola mola Pacific herring, Clupea harengus pallasi Pacific mackerel, Scomber japonicus Sablefish, Anoplopoma fimbria Salmon shark, Lamna ditropis Shortspine thornyhead, Sebastolobus alascanus Silvergray rockfish, Sebastes brevispinis Sixgill shark, Hexanchus griseus Soupfin shark, Galeorhinus zyopterus Spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias Spotted ratfish, Hydrolagus colliei Starry skate, Raja stellulata Yellowtail jack, Seriola lalandi Yellowtail rockfish, Sebastes flavidus *** Construction statistics Concrete: 6,600 cubic yards, or 26,730,000 pounds, or 13,365 tons Rebar: 1,230,451 pounds, or 615.2 tons Pipe: 28,000 feet, or 5.3 miles Wire: 50,000 feet, or 9.5 miles Water stop: 7,500 feet, or 1.42 miles Man-hours on site: 145,000 Acrylic: $1.3 million worth of new acrylic Tunnel sections -- Each section is approximately 8 feet long and weighs approximately 4,119 pounds, or over 2 tons;the acrylic is 3 to 4 inches thick; tunnel sections are 8½ feet. Event Room window -- 19 feet wide by 8 feet tall; acrylic is approximately 6¼ inches thick and weighs 6,205 pounds, or over 3 tons. “Orford Reef” window -- 9¾ feet wide by 8 feet tall; acrylic is approximately 6¼ inches thick and weighs 3,124 pounds, or over 1½ tons. Conical floor windows -- floor windows are the largest that Reynolds Polymer has ever made. “Open Sea” and “Halibut Flats” floor windows: there are three of these large windows in the “Open Sea” and one in the “Halibut Flats” exhibit; floor windows are 14 feet in length at the top and 14 feet 10 inches in length on the water side; ach floor window is 5½ inches thick; each window weighs 2,052 pounds, or over 1 ton. Above the floor windows are sacrificial tempered glass covers, which visitors will walk upon; each window weighs 454 pounds and is ½ inch thick. “Orford Reef” floor windows -- there is one floor window in the “Orford Reef” exhibit; the floor window is 8 feet in length at the top and 8 feet 10 inches in length on the waterside; acrylic is 5½ inches thick and weighs 1,167 pounds, or over half a ton; the sacrificial tempered glass cover weighs 240 pounds and is ½ inch thick. Light niche covers -- three layers of ½ inch laminated tempered glass with two PVB interlayers; 34 inches long by 14 inches wide and weigh 78 pounds apiece; there are 18 of these in the tunnel floor. *** Additional expansions: The Oregon Coast Aquarium has begun work on an additional expansion that will complete exhibits on freshwater streams, estuaries and upland forests of the central Oregon coast. The first phase of this expansion is the 35,000-gallon endangered salmon and sturgeon exhibit called "At the Jetty." With a viewing window eight feet high and 20 feet wide, the "At the Jetty" exhibit is the showpiece of the Coastal Waters Gallery and is four times larger than the Aquarium’s previous largest indoor exhibit. Long-term plans: In the coming years the Aquarium will continue to expand, both indoors and out, taking advantage of the entire 39-acre site in order to comfortably accommodate growing attendance while providing more variety and services. Educational programs will continue to be the number one priority for children and adults alike in the Aquarium’s expanded theater and classrooms, designed to better accommodate dynamic demonstrations. Future visitors will stroll along trails that will take them along a trout stream, watch hummingbirds in a new aviary and see aquatic creatures rarely seen by land dwellers. They even see the strange and bizarre creatures that thrive near volcanic hydrothermic vents.





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