Despite a delay caused by Hurricane Sandy, a new $158 million shark-themed attraction has finally opened at the New York Aquarium.
The sighting of sharks at Coney Island would normally send a chill down anyone’s spine. But for visitors to this iconic Brooklyn playground on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, these predators of the deep are a welcome sight.
That’s because, after 14 years of planning (including a year-long delay caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012), the $US158 million “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit finally opened this weekend at the New York Aquarium.
Covering 5,300sq m and set over three floors, Ocean Wonders: Sharks! has nine galleries and includes more than 115 species of marine life housed in three million litres of water, including 60 sharks and rays.
You won’t see a Great White or a blue shark here, but you will see some baby epaulette sharks, a speckled sandbar named Angus, and a school of all-female blacktip reef sharks.
The oldest shark in the collection is a sand tiger called Bud Logan. He’s 34-years-old. But there’s also Ray Charles, a rough tail stingray that is 42-years-old.
In a perfectly-planned “wow” moment, visitors are serenaded by the sounds of the sea as they enter the exhibit.
They then enter a tunnel-like walkway that lets them get up close and personal with colorful tangs, zebra sharks and angel fish.
Touch screens and other interactive elements explain the unique characteristics of sharks and the dangers they face both locally and around the world.
Sharks play a vital role in keeping ecosystems healthy, yet overfishing, pollution and other man-made problems pose massive threats – including “finning”, where fishermen remove their fins for delicacies like shark-fin soup, leaving them unable to swim.
The exhibit also leads visitors back outside, onto a spiral ramp along the side of the building and up to the roof, where unmatched views of the Coney Island boardwalk and beach stretch for as far as the eye can see.
Even the curving facade of the aquarium (pictured), on the iconic Riegelmann Boardwalk, is spectacular thanks to a new 335 metre-long Shimmer Wall (or wind veil) made of 33,000 aluminium flaps that move with the wind.
The aquarium, managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society along with the Bronx and Central Park zoos, has been undertaking an ambitious reconstruction program after it was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, just as a major renovation was scheduled to start.
Storm water flooded the aquarium, filling its carefully managed tanks with oily, dirty water. Power to the exhibits was also knocked out, making it impossible for aquarium staff to check on the 12,000 animals for a number of days. There was even talk of shipping the animals away.
The aquarium did reopen soon after with 90 per cent of its collection intact. The shark exhibit is just part of the aquarium’s long-planned revival, with more to come.
How to Get There
The New York Aquarium is located on Surf Avenue & West 8th Street and is roughly an hour from central Manhattan. If you’re arriving by subway, take the F or Q train to the West 8th Street station at Coney Island, Brooklyn. Or, take the N or D trains to the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue Station, then walk two blocks east on Surf Ave.
What it Costs
During summer tickets are half price when booked online. Admission for children is $11.94 while adult entry costs $14.95. On Wednesdays after 3pm, visitors can pay what they like as part of a donation to the aquarium.
Make a day of it and check out other famous attractions like Deno’s Wonder Wheel, Luna Park, the Riegelmann Boardwalk and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs while you’re there.
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