For a long time, the National Aquarium was the first attraction that came to mind when I thought of Baltimore. Now, I know, of course, that there is a lot more to the city than its harbor. Still, the Aquarium remains one of my favorite places to visit. The building gets crowded fast, so it’s best to either come as soon as the place opens at 9 am or on Friday and, in August, Saturday evenings (many don’t realize that the Aquarium is open until 8 pm at least once a week).
There is a lot to see. A persistent highlight for me has been the ongoing Jellies Invasion exhibit, featuring 9 different species of these odd, prehistoric creatures. What a mesmerizing sight: They float (brainless, it turns out!), slowly, smoothly, many with long, thread-like tentacles spread out all around, most translucent, and some glowing. Beautiful–yet, apparently, destructive to the environment as more and more of their natural enemies, sea turtles and jelly-eating fish like tuna, lose ground. The exhibit does a great job presenting what we know about different types of jellyfish and describing their growing footprint in the precarious aquatic ecosystems around the world, including in our very own Chesapeake Bay. Fascinating, disturbing, hauntingly beautiful, and important to know.