We returned home last night to find that our email was filled with your messages of sympathy about our burglary. We find it's really not so bad: we still have copies of all our trip reports and photos starting in 2000. What's missing is some really old stuff, but we still have lots of scrapbooks and old photo albums to guide our memories. We're going to renew our archive plan, but this time separate our backup media. Jellyfish
As to the rest -- well, some of you know that we're trying to travel light. So losing some cases of stuff is actually not all that unpleasant -- our insurance will pay for our losses, but we won't replace everything that was taken. And the folks at the Residence Inn left a box of cookies in our room to cheer us up. And we've moved the truck to RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DOOR UNDER THE LIGHTS! So we're doing fine.
Yesterday we visited the Scripps Aquarium, where the majority of the visitors were under two feet tall and spoke little English. They grabbed the best viewing spots and showed no reluctance to step on our feet.
Yes, they were toddlers, all of them looking for Nemo and Marlin. We decided that Finding Nemo must be the most welcome news to aquaria since the development of curved-glass tanks.
The excellent Birch Aquarium is part of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute. While it's not the flashiest aquarium we've seen, it had lots of Coral reef exhibit interesting exhibits, and we competed with the little ones to look in all the tanks. We thought the animals were active, the water clear, and our pictures turned out well. One turn around the main semicircular corridor takes the visitor from cold northern waters to the warmest tropical reefs. The eel-like hagfish, a scavenger, lies on the bottom and squirms through the bodies of dead fish to feed. Ugh! The large morays twist sinuously across the front of the tanks. The flatfish lie flat, with two eyes on one side. Jellyfish pulsate moving through the water. Giant claims expose their soft insides. Anemones wave their stinging tentacles, but some fish are immune to the poison and hide inside. The most colorful fish look like rainbows.
Outside, the tidal pool was three and four deep with kiddies aching to touch the sea creatures, so we wandered on to the sea horse nursery. Scripps breeds and sells sea horses to aquaria in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The pictures of the male giving birth (yes, that's the way they do it) are wonderful; they've even got shots of the young inside the pouch before birth, using endoscopy!
Here we saw the most unbelievable animal. A relative of the sea hores, the leafy dragonfish looks exactly like a yellowish undulating dragon, with leafy branches growing out of its skin all over. This foot-long creature floats around looking like some tropical sea plant until an unwary shrimp gets A Leafy dragonfish too close to its mouth and then SLURP! it is sucked right in for lunch.
How can the world conserve the bounty of the seas? All these sea creatures are harvested and used by humans -- for food, medicine, trophies, etc. But we keep overfishing, so that some species have been driven to near extinction. The open ocean is governed only by weak international agreements, and there is no navy large enough to catch any but the worst offenders. Aquariums try the educational approach, hoping to build public support for managing ocean resources.
We must give a high recommendation to Sbicca's restaurant in Del Mar. We sat upstairs on a deck, with umbrellas and space heaters to keep it comfortable, and a dazzling view of the Pacific Ocean. We enjoyed lobster bisque, three different salads, and the best bread we've ever had in California -- a crunchy, airy Italian bread that made us think we were back in Italy.
Afterwards we watched the second part of The Fellowship of the Ring. Tomorrow we'll be on to book two of Tolkien's epic. We found ourselves wondering if today's children will grow up believing that goblins and orcs are real, or if they know this is just make-believe.