Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jah Cousteau in his Natural Habitat

So - Plymouth's large and much celebrated National Marine Aquarium. Hands up everyone who's been to have a look around. Hmmm - thought so. Not as many as there might be. This is probably because of the arse-clenchingly high entrance fee.

A few years ago, Mrs The Millbrooker and I ventured as far as the main entrance, saw the ticket prices and made our way hurriedly back over the Sutton Harbour swing bridge to the relative sanity of the Barbican, mopping our fevered brows as we went.

It's now £11.50 a head to get in for grown ups (well, adults anyway) and £7 for children (family rate 2 of each is £32). I know it's a charity not a publicly owned institution, but nonetheless that's a big wedge for a couple of hours unless marine life happens to be a true passion for you. Allow me to whisper gently, though, that I think it's a marvellous experience and if you can conjure up the readies, you'll not feel short changed by the two or three hours you'll spend inside.

So, let's put aside pecuniary worries for the moment. Mainly because our own Jah Cousteau is a staffer at the aquarium and we didn't have to pay at all to get yesterday. Huzzah! That's very good value for money in my book.

The outing began, as so many good outings do, on the Cremyll Ferry. Tamar Cruising have introduced a new service in which they graft a small dog onto your belly in order to make one's middle portion look leaner in photos;  a service of which I took full advantage.
After a gentle pootle over the Hoe the aquarium hove into view.
We met Jah Cousteau at the main entrance and he gave us a quick guided walkabout before he had to head off into the backstage areas and actually do some of the things that he gets paid for. We enjoyed a fascinating wander peering into tanks and reading snippets of info about the creatures within. What wonderful shapes and colours there are under the sea. I've not seen anything like it since I was lucky enough to snorkel over the coral reefs around Zanzibar over sixteen years ago.
Needless to say (or perhaps, knowing the unbelievable denseness of the general public, essential to say) flash photos are absolutely forbidden, so all of the shots Mrs The Millbrooker and I took in the tanks are using only the available light.

I'll take the liberty of a few more - all Mrs The Millbrooker's work - before we get to the main point of our being at the aquarium, which had little to do with the fishy inhabitants of the display tanks.
Now, as I hinted above, fascinating (and possibly very tasty) though all these creatures are, we weren't there to look at them. We were there to watch Jah Cousteau perform part of his job.

At around 2pm the Eddystone tank (which is rather big by domestic aquaria standards) is the venue for a public display ...
... yes, indeed, our very own Jah's job is plunging into the chilly (12C) waters in order to (a) perform a brief diving show for the assembled gawking masses and (b) clean the tank and feed the fish. Nice work, I'd say.

This is him feeding Cornelia; she bashes a target and then gets a tasty treat. Rather Pavlovian, I guess. She's a big bugger, mind, and hits the target with a healthy wallop.
Undoubtedly less fun, but essential nonetheless, some slightly more conventional feeding.
And, after about a half an hour of playing with fishy friends, Jah Cousteau ascends to the heavens (ok, the surface) and that's the end of the public viewing of what he does for a living.
What a great time we had - I'm a convert to the aquarium, despite its steep pricing policy and it was a real buzz watching one of our own in his natural environment.

Thank you, J.C., for arranging it all for us - much appreciated.


Lizzie said...

We were meant to go to the aquarium together :(

The Millbrooker said...

We'll be going again. When are you going to be here?