August 5, 2011 Alaska SeaLife Center
Alaska SeaLife Center - Seward, Alaska
My first stop in Seward was the Alaska SeaLife Center. A friend used to work at the Center and said it was an amazing place that I needed to visit. Luckily, I had my college ID and AAA card as they offer a great discounted rate for admission and the behind the scenes tours. I booked a behind the scenes tour, a puffin experience, and a marine mammal experience. The first tour I did was the behind the scenes tour. I think if you are ever visiting somewhere you need to splurge and go on the behind the scene tours. You learn so much more and get to do things that you don't even come close to experiencing during a regular visit.
The Center is the only marine mammal rehabilitation center in Alaska and cost $56 million to build; 2/3 of which came from the trustees appointed to divvying up the $900 million settlement from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. So far this year the Center has received 11 orphaned seals, which they will raise, teach to fish on their own and hopefully release back into the wild. The Center goes through 120,000 pounds of food every year; mostly frozen herring, squid, Dover sole, salmon and krill, which also provides veterinary services such as fish surgeries, cataract surgeries, X-rays, and ultrasounds.
The Center often receives orphaned baby otters and seals. The baby otters are the most expensive as they can cost over $20,000 for 3-4 months of care. The reason the otters cost so much is because they require constant supervision and coddling. In the wild, the mother otter takes care of her baby 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She is constantly holding and fluffing their fur, which means that when an orphaned baby otter comes into the Center humans have to take over the mother's jobs. The reason they fluff their fur is because even though the otters have over 1 million hairs per square inch on their bodies in some places, the fur is not what keeps them warm. What keeps the otters warm are the air bubbles between the hairs that result from the fluffing. When the baby otters arrive at the Center, their caretakers actually use hair dryers to fluff their fur and add air bubbles to keep them warm!
There is also a lot of research being done at the SeaLife Center. One of the more interesting research studies done in the recent past dealt with baby octopus. A pair of octopi mated recently and had over 40,000 eggs! The parents die quickly after mating and the eggs have to fend for themselves. However, they have a VERY thin mantle covering the eggs and even bumping into the side of the tank is fatal. Some scientists designed a tank that circulated the water in an attempt to keep the eggs from bumping into the sides. Unfortunately, none of the eggs survived but no research is for naught; something is always learned.
Marine Mammal Experience Tour
One of the behind the scene tours I participated in was the marine mammal experience, which focused on the harbor and stellar seals. The seals are voluntarily trained through positive reinforcement (treats) to get into cages and positions that allow for their caretakers to get into cages, examine them, brush their teeth and draw blood. One of the seals weighs over 1700 pounds and at one time had weighed a whopping 2200 pounds! You can imagine how hard it would be examine, transport, or draw blood from an animal that weighs over one ton. This positive reinforcement teaches the seals to touch a target with their nose or put their flipper out of their cage and then they are rewarded with a fish. I was surprised at how easily they were trained; just like training a dog.
Puffin Experience Tour
The puffin experience was really neat. I learned about the puffins, murres, and other water birds during this one hour tour. One of the most amazing facts I found out about the puffins was the fact they are able to dive over 300 feet deep! At the end of the experience I got to go into the exhibit and hand-feed the puffins! Watching the puffins fit 3-5 fish in their mouths at one time was great and amusing. Being behind the scenes, I was actually able to be IN the exhibit and people were on the other side of the exhibit watching me feed the fish. Like I said, if you ever get the chance to do the behind the scene tours, anywhere, make sure you take the time and I guarantee it will be an experience you will not soon forget!
Fact of the Day
Today's Fact of the Day Question: What is the state gem?? Hint - can be a girl's name !!
Yesterday's Fact of the Day Answer: What country did the U.S. buy Alaska from in 1867?? Hint - no, I cannot see this country from where I am in Alaska!! Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867.
Inuit Word of the Day
Yesterday's Word: titiraut = Pencil or Pen Hint: You need this every day in school - and most of my kids don't bring one!!! !!! Did you get it right?
Today's word: Qaniq - Hint: Sometimes you put your foot here - and it's not a good thing (haha)!!! What is the word of the day?
Please take 2 seconds and reply with your guesses to the fact of the day or Inuit word of the day in the "Ask the Team" section link below: