For my daughter, it’s the wonder of the unknown. She is in awe of these amazing underwater animals she’d never meet in real life. Every child loves the playful dolphin tricks and the adorable baby beluga whale swimming with her mother. This year she took a special interest in eels, influenced by the villains from the Little Mermaid, and searched for them in every fish tank. And of course she always says hello to “Little Nemo” and “Dorie.”
For me, it’s fuel for the imagination. The artist in me loves the beauty of the underwater scenes, especially the Wild Reef tanks with stunning tropical fish darting around living coral. An entire school of fish turning in unison is magical to witness. The writer in me loves the character and personality of these creatures. The green sea turtle in the front Caribbean tank is an old friend I say hello to every visit. My nerves alway tingle when I come face to face with a shark. Nothing is more touching than a penguin couple swimming together. But my favorite is always the sea otters. So playful and human-like, but without our responsibilities and worries. These creatures are a personification of our inner child come to life. This year, a new baby sea otter joined the Shedd family, rescued from a California beach.
Most visits I reflect on what the Shedd means to my daughter and I, and why we love this place. This year, after learning of the rescued baby sea otter and the heroic efforts the animal trainers are making to provide around the clock care for this orphan, I realized the museum isn’t really about us. Yes, tourist visits fund the great work the museum accomplishes, but that’s not really the point of the Shedd. This museum is first and foremost a teaching, research, and rescue facility. Baby Cayucos is the ninth sea otter pup to be rescued and raised at the Shedd, and she’s only one of the 32,500 animals who call this aquarium home. That’s why we need museums like the Shedd.