A Tour of Ocean Journey
The galleries and exhibits of the
Tennessee Aquarium’s new expansion
Tennessee Aquarium takes visitors from the mountains to the
sea, and that adventure continues in the new Ocean Journey building.
Guests explore a Tropical Cove, glide through a Butterfly Garden
and dive into a Secret Reef. They’ll also meet some of
the weird and watery wildlife in the “Boneless Beauties”
adventure begins as guests take an escalator to Level 4 of the
Ocean Journey building. As they ascend, natural light surrounds
them as they take in a sweeping view of city parks and the Tennessee
River – the water they see flowing by will eventually
find its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Visitors enter a lush, tropical rainforest under Ocean Journey’s
glass peaks. The 30-foot high sunlit space is filled with tall
palm trees, flowering plants and the sounds of a tropical forest.
the Forest Pool, guests are captivated by freshwater stingrays
like the black, white-blotched, tiger and vermiculate river
rays, as well as young arawana. Both the black and tiger stingrays
are considered threatened species and will be the focus of an
Aquarium breeding effort. The arawana are South American fish
that are easily recognizable by their upturned mouths. They
are terrific jumpers and have been known to leap out of the
water to capture prey on overhanging tree branches.
visitors continue their journey, the sounds of birdcalls fill
the air and they catch sight of a majestic bird with striking
blue feathers in Macaw Glade. Reaching heights of more than
3 feet, and with a wingspan of more than 4 feet, the hyacinth
macaw is a member of the parrot family. It also has the strongest
beak of any bird in the world. This beautiful bird has deep
cobalt blue feathers that are offset by yellow eye rings and
intelligent animal has a sensitive tongue that it uses like
a hand to grip and explore small objects. The macaw’s
pointed beak is used to crush seeds and nuts that make up the
majority of its diet.
With more than 100 feet of shoreline, Shark Island is the Aquarium’s
largest touch exhibit. Guests can touch nearly 100 harmless
sharks and rays while Aquarium education staff members share
interesting facts about these animals. The small epaulette and
bamboo sharks found in this pool are harmless and have rough
skins that are covered with scales. The stingrays of Shark Island
are smooth to the touch and do not have stinging barbs. Both
sharks and rays have skeletons made of cartilage rather than
bone. Cartilage is the same flexible material that is found
in the human ear and nose.
After a “touching” experience at Shark Island, visitors
continue their Ocean Journey tour by entering a second tropical
rainforest housed under the glass peaks. But this time, it’s
a garden overflowing with exotic flowers, a waterfall and hundreds
of jewel-hued, free flying butterflies. The Butterfly Garden
immerses guests in an interactive experience where the butterflies
flutter among, and even occasionally land on, the visitors.
The butterflies found in the garden include species from Asia,
Africa, South and Central America.
After experiencing the winged wonders of the Butterfly Garden,
visitors descend an escalator to the Secret Reef exhibit, a
representation of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
located 110 miles off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico.
Secret Reef reveals the magic life below the ocean’s surface.
With 618,000 gallons of saltwater, and thousands of fish, the
Secret Reef is the Aquarium’s largest exhibit. The exhibit,
which is longer than an NBA basketball court, features a total
of 33 windows that allow visitors to experience both sweeping
views of the entire reef and close up looks at the colorful
fish that dart and swim along the surface of the coral.
the top level of the Secret Reef, guests encounter the stars
of the exhibit – the 10-foot-long sand tiger sharks and
the sleek and slightly smaller sandbar sharks. These toothy
predators are amazing hunters but pose virtually no threat to
human beings. At scheduled times, visitors will see divers in
the exhibit and learn more about the role they play in keeping
the Secret Reef clean and the animals healthy.
visitors descend, they will discover other residents of this
vibrant ocean community. Large schools of silvery jacks and
lookdowns race through the exhibit while smaller, brightly colored
fish dart in and out of fantastic coral formations.
Visitors leave the Secret Reef for a while to explore Ocean
Journey’s first special exhibition gallery, “Boneless
Beauties.” Despite their drastically different appearances,
the creatures in this gallery share one common trait –
the lack of a backbone. The “Boneless Beauties”
gallery showcases some of the most fascinating and bizarre animals
on earth, including the giant Pacific octopus, the giant Japanese
spider crab and those spineless, brainless wonders: the jellyfish.
again to the Secret Reef, guests encounter an enormous three-story
acrylic panel that gives them the impression that they are peering
across the reef and into the open expanse of the sea.
Next, visitors descend and venture into an Undersea Cavern that
uncovers life beneath the reef. The Undersea Cavern takes guests
inside and through the Secret Reef tank, experiencing sensations
and views normally available only to divers. Guests will follow
a winding undersea tunnel that leads them through the tank to
experience dramatic views hidden in the rock. Light plays through
the water and onto the walls of this cavern, and visitors are
surrounded not only by the sights, but also by the sounds of
Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the
natural world. Admission is $17.95 per adult and $9.50 per child,
ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation
programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium.
Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX
combo tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.50 for children.
Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or
by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks
of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization.
Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium
and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members
enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to
Downloadable images: http://www.tnaqua.org/Newsroom/Photo_library.asp