Jan 7, 2010

World's Largest Aquarium - Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium, located in Atlanta, Georgia at Pemberton Place, is billed as the "world's largest aquarium" with more than 8.1 million US gallons (31,000 m³) of marine and fresh water housing more than 100,000 animals of 500 different species. The aquarium's notable specimens include four young whale sharks, three beluga whales and two manta rays.

Funded mostly by a $250 million donation from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the aquarium was built on a 20 acre (81,000 m²) site north of Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. Marcus credited his 60th birthday dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 1990 as among the inspirations behind his desire to build an aquarium in Atlanta.


The Georgia Aquarium contains between 100,000 and 120,000 fish and other sea creatures, representing more than five hundred species. On June 14, 2005, the total number of specimens was unveiled after having previously being reported as "over 55,000". Marcus was quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying: "I have been saying that we would have more than 55,000 fish; I just never said how many more." The fish were transported from Taiwan to the aquarium by UPS in 42 tanks aboard an MD-11. UPS donated the cost of the shipping, estimated at over $200,000 US currency.

The aquarium's most famous specimens were four young whale sharks from Taiwan named Ralph, Norton, Alice and Trixie, after the primary characters from The Honeymooners. Ralph died from peritonitis on January 11, 2007, and Norton followed on June 13, 2007 when the aquarium made the decision to euthanize him after he had shown signs of erratic swimming and had stopped eating. Ralph and Norton were with the Georgia Aquarium at its opening; Alice and Trixie joined the aquarium June 3, 2006.

The Georgia Aquarium is the only institution outside of Asia to house whale sharks. The sharks are kept in a 6.3 million gallon (24,000 m³) tank, and the aquarium was actually designed around the whale shark exhibit. The importation of the whale sharks from Taiwan, which was overseen by Jeff Swanagan and staff biologists, was "top secret" and had never been attempted previously. The move required the use of large aircraft, trucks and boats to ship the massive aquatic animals to Atlanta. The four whale sharks were taken from Taiwan's annual fishing kill quota, which the country has since abolished. Under the quota, the whale sharks would have been killed and eaten if they had not been purchased by the Georgia Aquarium.

On May 25, 2007, Taiwan's Fisheries Agency announced the Aquarium had been approved to receive two more whale sharks before Taiwan bans the animals' capture in 2008. On June 1, 2007 the two new whale sharks arrived at the aquarium. The two sharks, caught earlier in 2007, are named Taroko, commemorating Taroko Gorge National Park, and Yushan after Taiwan's Jade Mountain.

The aquarium is currently one of only two aquariums in the United States to exhibit Great Hammerhead sharks; the other is the Adventure Aquarium. The aquarium was also home to five 11 foot (3 m) long beluga whales. Two males named Nico and Gasper were rescued from a Mexico City amusement park where they lived under a roller coaster. Because of insufficient weight, skin lesions, and a bone disease, on January 2, 2007, Gasper was euthanized. Marina died on December 1, 2007 of what may have been natural causes (she was 30 years old). Nico died unexpectedly on October 31, 2009 after being relocated to SeaWorld San Antonio temporarily during an aquarium construction project. The remaining females (Natasha and Maris) are on breeding loan from the New York Aquarium. The aquarium is among six other US aquariums, including Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, with belugas in their collections.

Continuing its drive to display marine animals rarely seen in the United States, the aquarium acquired a manta ray from an aquarium facility in Durban, South Africa. Named "Nandi," the manta was caught by accident in nets meant to protect the coast from sharks. Officials at the Durban facility determined that the manta had outgrown its home, and offered the manta to the much-larger Georgia Aquarium. Nandi first went on display in the Ocean Voyager exhibit on August 25, 2008 as the first manta ray on display in the country, and making the aquarium one of only four in the world to display one. A second manta ray was added to the collection in September 2009.


The Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest at the time of its opening in November 2005, encompasses 550,000 square feet (5.1 ha; 13 acres) of covered space and includes 328 tons of acrylic windows, 290 plumbing fixtures, 200 floor drains, 53 roof tops, 61 miles (98 km) of wires and pipes and 100,000 yards (91,000 m) of concrete in the structure. It holds 8,000,000 US gallons (30,000 m3) of fresh and salt water (conditioned with 1,500,000 pounds (680 t) of "Instant Ocean" sea salt mix) and houses more than 100,000 fish and animals. The blue metal and glass exterior of the aquarium was designed to resemble a giant ark breaking through a wave. The ship’s hull appears to emerge from two large buildings that feature curved, flowing roofs that were designed to represent ocean swells. The record for largest aquarium in the world is highly contested; however, Dubai's three story Dubai Mall aquarium claims it will be the world's largest when it opens in the new Burj Dubai project.

With an accelerated 27-month schedule, the project timeline for the construction of the aquarium was aggressive. To facilitate the phased construction activities that were essential to meeting the project schedule, two-ply asphalt BUR was installed over a lightweight concrete deck. This temporary roof allowed for expedited construction and the associated roof traffic. The final stage included installation of the light gray FiberTite roofing system, which was selected to match the gray wall panels. Construction of the aquarium was contracted by Brasfield & Gorrie, a general contractor headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.

In addition to the massive habitats that are the core of the aquarium, the facility includes the 16,400 square feet (1,520 m2) Oceans Ballroom – a banquet hall that can host events for up to 1100 seated or 1600 at a reception. The hall features two 10 by 28 feet (3.0 m × 8.5 m) windows into the exhibits housing the whale sharks and beluga whales. It can also be subdivided into three smaller spaces for events. Chef Wolfgang Puck's company will manage catering services for this facility. The aquarium also includes a fairly large food court with tables extending into the main lobby. The costs of building the aquarium escalated beyond Marcus' original US$250 million donation. To complete the facility without scaling back plans, six local companies — AirTran Airways, AT&T, Georgia-Pacific, The Home Depot, Southern Company, and SunTrust Banks — signed on as presenting sponsors for exhibits.

In May of 2008, the Georgia Aquarium announced plans to build a $110 million expansion to the facility for a new dolphin exhibit. The expansion will occupy an area of 84,000 square feet (7,800 m2) and will contain 1,300,000 US gallons (4,900 m3) of water. Located on the west side of the facility, the exhibit will feature space for live presentations, observation windows and opportunities for visitors to interact with the animals, which are being lent by Marineland on a breeding loan. This expansion will be self funded by the aquarium, possibly with the help of a corporate sponsor.

Construction began later in 2008, and the scheduled completion date is November 2010, five years after the aquarium first opened. During part of the construction, the aquarium's three beluga whales were temporarily relocated to SeaWorld San Antonio. Beluga whales are very sensitive to sound, and while officials had not noted any excessive amounts of stress, it was decided to remove them anyway and eliminate the possibility. Unexpectedly, one of the three belugas, Nico, died at SeaWorld on October 31, 2009; a preliminary necropsy was unable to determine if Nico's death was caused by the move or by something else.



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Amazing aquarium. Thanks for sharing and keep posting.

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