Sunday, May 24, 2009

Night at the Aquarium

Thursday afternoon, Youngest Son (YS), Youngest Daughter (YD) and I climbed into the car and headed for Charleston, SC to the South Carolina Aquarium. It was a wonderful educational program that started at 7:00 p.m. and went overnight. Who thinks of these things?

The evening started out with a boys vs. girls game played with divers who were swimming around in the Great Ocean Tank. This tank holds 425,000 gallons of water! This fun game was then followed up with a scavenger hunt that took us all over the whole aquarium and a visit with a baby alligator . . . complete with touching. Enchanting!!

(Beautiful metal mobiles cut out into simple bird shapes glisten the whole length of the aquarium.)
At this point, it was time for a snack and then we got to pick anywhere in the whole aquarium to sleep! Oh, what fun! Where to sleep? I gave total control to YS. Pick us a great spot.

(Amazing driftwood from some tree in the myrtle family, I'm told.)
One room was called "Carolina Camping." It was a tribute, obviously, to camping in South Carolina and was adorably set up with a "ranger's station," a rushing stream full of fish, a tent, pretend campfire, a couple of barn owls, etc. Yes, YS loves camping. This was our room. YS plunked down his sleeping bag. I unzipped two sleeping bags for YD and I and sandwiched us in between. It was now 11:30 p.m. I was tired.

Lights went out. We were alone in the room. Something began to nag at my mind. All I could seem to think of was that 425,000 gallon tank of water. Unbelievably, I started to worry what would happen if the tank was to burst. I tried to push the thought away. Calm down. Think other thoughts.

Now that all the busy-ness of the evening had settled down, I could smell something a little strange. As 11:30 inched toward midnight, the smell could have been described as pungent.

Oh, I'm so tired. I've got to fall asleep. Whoosh, whoosh. Have you ever sat in a room with a small fish tank and heard the bubbling and percolating of the pump? Soothing, quieting . . . fish slowly crossing and recrossing. But this was not a small fish tank. This was a 425,000 gallon tank and another 115 other tanks. Whoosh, roar, swish. The aquarium buzzed and throbbed and surged with the noise of pumps. The "stream" by our heads gushed. One of the pumps squeaked sharply every 2.5 seconds. Are there pump rooms in aquariums? Is it possible that we were sleeping next to the pump room? Every buzz and roar and throb reminded me of that 425,000 gallon tank. Calm down. Go to sleep.

"Screech!!" My body jolted with the sound. The barn owls. Every frayed little nerve ending twitched.

More smells. This aquarium smells . . . well, fishy. And that pungent smell is getting stronger. We drift off to a thin sleep.

"Kleeeeeeek!" YS bolts straight up into the air. The bald eagle around the corner has awoken and is not happy. YS doesn't remember who he is or where he is. He just wants Mom. Three of us now cuddled scantily under an unzipped sleeping bag. YD molded to the front of me. YS clinging to the back of me. I'm warm, very warm, needing fresh air. Buzz, whoosh, roar, shriek. And what is that awful smell?

At 6:45 a.m. we are awoken by a cheerful aquarium worker. We have made it through the night. The 425,000 gallons of water still swish in their clear glass home. We are safe.

I look to my right, wondering what this enclosure is. Oh, my, a skunk display, a lovely pungent live skunk display right by my head. And there, 6 inches from my head . . . three piles of skunk-y poo deposited in the night. ::sigh:: I'd seen the picture, but a real skunk in an aquarium, huh??

Outside the aquarium a beautiful day was dawning. Night-time traumas forgotten.

We dip our feet into the water and run wildly in the sand, loving the fresh sea breezes in our faces.

Then there's a yummy bagel breakfast and it's time to pack up.

The lovely city of Charleston lays before us, with the sun shining for the first time in days, we are told. There are still a few more things to do before our adventure ends. A few more pics tomorrow.

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