One cold November day, in the wee hours of the morning, the Seattle Aquarium staff and a few lucky onlookers, including Mayor Nickels, stood under the Alaskan Way Viaduct (shut down for this purpose) and watched a giant crane remove the temporary roof off the new part of the aquarium, and lower down a 55,000-pound, 12.5-inch-thick sheet of glass into the new "Window on Washington Waters" exhibit.
Today, behind that 40-by-20-foot window, there are 120,000 gallons of bona fide Puget Sound water, and approximately 407 fish (there's no accurate count because they keep eating each other). According to the aquarium's P.R. director, Laura Austin, "The tank is supposed to be a slice of Neah Bay....We wanted something that was unique, that makes you say, 'Wow.'"
Mission accomplished. Now imagine a scuba diver floating by inside that tank, her booming voice filling the entire lobby. Three times a day, one of five divers is on hand for a 10-minute "show" and Q&A session conducted from behind the Plexiglas.
Andrea DosSantos, the lead scuba diver of the all-female quintet, has a B.S. in biology, and is visibly excited about the tank as she shows me her specially made mask, complete with microphone and headphones. "It's a dream come true! I get to dive and talk about fish at the same time!"
DosSantos and her team were the first people granted access to the tank, even before the fish, and have been in there for the past month, several times a day, working on their presentation on marine conservation. DosSantos says it's not just for kids. "There is some adult humor that the kids won't get."
Personally, I found the script to be more full of corny fish puns than sex jokes, but it definitely kept its audience captivated. After the conservation talk, a large group of youngsters flocked to the window to "high-five" DosSantos like she was a sports mascot before she swam away.