Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ozeaneum, German

The oceanography museum opened its doors to the public in the north-eastern German port town of Stralsund. It contains 39 huge fish tanks and seven life-size models of whales.

Ozeaneum is an architecturally dramatic extension to the existing Oceanography Museum in Stralsund, a town on the Baltic Coast. Inside Oceanography Museum visitors can discover what is going on in a mysterious world that makes up 70 per cent of our planet's surface. With aquariums and exhibitions spread over some 8,700 square meters of exhibition space, visitors are treated to an underwater journey through the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the Northern Atlantic, right up into the Arctic Ocean.

Unknown fish, coral and other marine life are exhibited in no less than 39 different aquariums. The journey begins with a model of Stralsund harbour which is used as the backdrop to show specimens of local fish like Rudd and Perch. Visitors are then guided to the deep-sea life in the North Atlantic aquarium and on to the Greenland basin and the fish world below the ice sheets.

Only 2.4 square kilometres of the deeps have ever been properly surveyed, using submarine probes. Statistically that is so little that it barely even counts as a sample of the whole surface worldwide. "We still don't even know about many species of creature in the deep oceans." said Harald Benke, director of the Oceanography Museum.

A museum with green credentials

A highlight at the Ozeaneum comprises life-size models of the Giants of the Seas. The exhibition, which was organised in conjunction with Greenpeace and its anti-whaling campaign, depicts giant models of whales hanging from 20 metre-high ceilings in rooms filled with whale song. Greenpeace donated 1.45 million euros to the whale exhibition. "We want visitors to see exactly what we will lose if whales become extinct," said Thomas Henningsen, who heads the Greenpeace project. The museum says the site contains the world's best library of whale books and data.

The live fish at Ozeaneum will live in the 39 aquarium tanks, which have a total capacity of 6 million litres. That is enough water to fill a bathtub 60,000 times over. To ensure it is disease free, it will come from the city water system and have 200 tons of salt added to match the salinity of sea-water.

The Ozeaneum is designed not only to showcase the beauty of the underwater world. Another of its aims is to use science-based information explained in lay terms to inform visitors about climate change, over-fishing and water pollution. The idea is to bring home the extent of threat faced by the marine environment and its life forms.

Ozeaneum also contains exhibits in old-fashioned glass cases and computerized displays. Harald Benke says fellow museum experts have praised Ozeaneum's unique approach and hail it as one of the world's best aquariums.


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