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Discover the Secret Wonders of Our Urban Ocean

Claire A.'s avatar

Monday, June 13, 2011


When I have friends or relatives visiting me in Long Beach, there are two things we end up talking about without fail: how often I go to the beach, and (once they spot the giant cranes surrounding the Queen Mary) the local ports. These two things together represent our urban ocean here on the coast of Southern California. It’s a place where industry, recreation, and wildlife all coexist in close proximity.

Here at the Aquarium, we’re on the verge of our second annual Urban Ocean Festival, which will be held June 18 and 19 and celebrates the nexus of all of these human and animal activities. If you don’t think that sounds exciting, just wait until I get into the details. At the festival, we’re planning to showcase the talents of local artists to capture the unique beauty of the urban ocean. We’ll have a fashion show and contest in which designers will compete to create the best garment out of recycled materials. We’ll also host a juried art exhibition and interactive mural painting sessions, both of which will bring to light the aesthetic qualities of our urban coastline. Attendees can also enjoy poetry readings and a special poetry boat cruise, films, guest lecturers, and musical performances throughout the weekend. We’ll also have Seafood for the Future on hand to demonstration sustainable seafood recipes and share samples.

But the party doesn’t end after that weekend. During the festival, and three more times during the summer, you can hop on a boat for our official urban ocean cruise—The Urban Ocean: World Port and Sealife Cruise. You’ll see parts of the port complex that the public generally doesn’t see. The port complex, which includes both the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles, is the busiest in the nation and the fifth-busiest in the world. Nearly half of all the manufactured goods that enter and leave the country pass through San Pedro Bay. Whether you’re a boat buff, economist, or just a consumer, this is interesting stuff!

What’s even more amazing is thinking about those giant container ships sharing shipping lanes with the largest assemblage of migrating whales in the World Ocean, as well as seals and sea lions, dolphins, fish, and birds, among other animals. In fact, there’s even a nature reserve at the mouth of the L.A. River that’s home to night herons and other wildlife. Plus, there are tons of recreational sailors based in the nearby marina, plus jet skiers, divers, and paddleboarders on the water near the bay. There are commercial and recreational fishing boats in the area, shuttles going back and forth from Catalina Island, a Russian spy submarine, and Sea Launch (the commercial satellite launch facility). You’ll see all of this from the comfort of our boat with commentary by an Aquarium of the Pacific educator. You’ll also learn about what the shipping industry is doing to reduce its environmental impact. To plan your cruise, visit www.aquariumofpacific.org/urbanoceancruise.

There’s so much to learn about the waters right off our beaches. In a big picture sense, we residents of Long Beach and beyond rely on what happens in those waters every day. Come learn more about our urban ocean and have fun with us this summer at the Aquarium.

Check out this video from 2010 about the urban ocean cruises. They’re back for 2011 and offer guests a unique look at port operations and area wildlife.

Discover the Secret Wonders of Our Urban Ocean
California sea lions look for food around a fishing boat inside the port complex.  | © Anitza Valles
Discover the Secret Wonders of Our Urban Ocean
The Aquarium's Urban Ocean Festival features interactive mural painting, allowing visitors to take part in the creative process.
Discover the Secret Wonders of Our Urban Ocean
Massive cranes can load and unload a container ship in a matter of hours. Before the invention of the shipping container in 1956, the same process took days.  | © Anitza Valles
Discover the Secret Wonders of Our Urban Ocean
A brown pelican skims the waters in Rainbow Harbor adjacent to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Many species of sea birds live in and around the urban ocean off the coast of Long Beach.

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