Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rain Forest

I spent the day in San Francisco yesterday with my family. We were celebrating both of my parent's birthdays and my little sister's graduation from an MBA program. Most of the day was spent at the California Academy of Sciences, which is billed as an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum rolled in to one. We'd never been there before and I'm glad we went because it's fantastic.

My favorite part of the museum is the rain forest . You start out in the understory and slowly walk a circular path to the top of the forest. It's hot and humid in there, just like a real rain forest. Among the sights are gigantic butterflies, colorful free-flying birds, and lush tropical vegetation.

One interesting sight that I couldn't get a picture of was leaf cutter ants marching in a line down a vine carrying pieces of leaves upright on their back. It was amazing to watch.

When you reach the top of the rain forest, you have to check to make sure there are no butterflies clinging to your clothes before taking an elevator down to the aquarium located beneath the rain forest. (I was pretty freaked out by that time because it was so hot and butterflies were flitting uncomfortably close to my face.)

The aquarium is incredible-- you start out in a tunnel with acrylic walls, and inside are huge catfish and small-ish sharks.

As you meander about the aquarium , there are several rooms with acrylic walls with different types of fish inside, along with smaller displays of creatures like sea dragons, shrimp, and eels.

One of the big attractions at the academy is Claude the albino alligator. Yes, he is real! He is on display in a mini-swamp with fake mist. I feel bad for Claude because the swamp is tiny and there is no place to hide from the hordes of people and their cameras. But I read that he is 13 years old and would never have survived that long in the wild, so I guess that makes it a little better.

The academy is known as the greenest museum in the world. It was built with recycled steel, is insulated with recycled blue jeans, and is powered by solar panels. It has a living roof with undulating hillocks covered in native plants. The living roof keeps the building 10 degrees cooler than a standard roof, saving on energy costs.

I'll post pictures from the African Hall and nearby Japanese Gardens in a day or two.

1 comment:

sumea said...

Thank you for your lovely, lovely comments on my blog
Your photographs are outstanding!
San Francisco sounds like such an amazing place to visit, the academy of sciences looks wondeful!
thankyou for sharing all the lovely links too
Hope you and your family have a great week