Ladies and gentlemen, tighten your virtual seat belts, start your computers and rev up your mice. For this whirlwind aquarium tour, we will start in Florida, then it's California, Oregon, and we'll finish in Connecticut. Sorry, no cyber-miles will be awarded on this flight. [Editor's Note: An updated version of this topic can be found here: Aquariums]
Aquarius is an underwater home for scientists as they study ocean life sixty feet below sea level. It is a pressurized cylindrical chamber with all the comforts of home: six bunks, shower, toilet, microwave and refrigerator. "The special diving capability of Aquarius, called saturation diving, allows scientists to work out on the reef up to nine hours a day without fear of getting the bends, compared to one hour if they had to work from the surface." The best way to explore the Aquarius is with the panoramic IPIX photos that allow you to walk through the vessel. No one likes to download new plug-ins, but this one is worth it. And you'll be needing it for our next stop in Tampa Bay.
"Feel free to tap on the glass" as you visit the exhibits based on the life cycle of a drop of water that flows from a spring out to the ocean. Explore each habitat's unique inhabitants through photographs, text and audio files. For a near-weightless sensation, try floating around the coral reef gallery with the IPIX immersion viewer. I got a little dizzy as I spun the picture around. You've got to try it. Also worth clicking is Hands On, where you'll find marine experiments, featured creatures and an ask-the-expert Answer Tank.
Cutely called an E-Quarium, highlights of the Monterey Bay site are the Habitats Path cybertour, the special features and At the CoRE (Conservation, Research and Education). First stop on the Habitats Path is the live Kelp Cam, which captures the changing sunlight streaming through the swaying kelp. The newest feature Fishing for Solutions asks "Are people catching and eating more than the ocean can produce?" This excellent exhibit takes a thoughtful look at the problem and suggests three things YOU can do to help conserve the ocean's bounty.
"Ribbit, ribbit. Got flies?" After perusing the great frog photos at FROGS! Clues to Survival, hop on over to the interactive who-done-it: The Case of the Disappearing Frogs. "She walked into my office late one day and brought trouble with her. The first things I noticed were her legs. They were long. Come to think of it they were green, too, with funny little webbed feet." But wait, there's more. Oregon Coast is home to Keiko "Free Willy" the killer whale (complete with Keiko Cam) and also offers an outstanding virtual tour.