A visit to the Blue Planet aquarium in Copenhagen

On our last day in Denmark, after a week-long family visit between Christmas 2015 and new year 2016, we went to Den Blå Planet, Denmark’s national aquarium. (Actually we were wrong about it being our last day in Denmark, but that’s another story involving Turkish Airlines, who seem to innovate in the field of disappointment.) The aquarium is situated in Kastrup, Copenhagen, quite close to the airport, and overlooks the narrow sound called the Øresund, which separates Denmark from Sweden.

The Blue Planet after the mist cleared
The Blue Planet after the mist cleared

We visited on 1 January, after (eventually) sleeping through the sounds of Copenhagen’s residents letting off five hundred metric tons of fireworks, starting at 5.00 pm the day before. We bought tickets online (a small saving in Danish krone that amounted to eleventy million ZAR) and arrived at opening time. The building is surrounded by a reflection pool, and is built in a spiral form inspired by the shape of a vortex. In the larger halls the high ceilings give a tremendous sense of space; at 10,000 square metres, the building is very large. The halls are generally wide and I imagine it could accommodate a very large number of people before feeling crowded.

Layout of The Blue Planet
Layout of The Blue Planet

The aquarium is divided into three sections. The first is focused on the life found in the lakes and ocean of Denmark and northern Europe. I particularly enjoyed this first part of the aquarium. The animals are adapted to the cold water, so some of them were very similar what we find around Cape Town, and the displays were creative and interesting. There was also the obligatory “anchor with fish” tank, which was (as always) mesmerising. One of the pictures in the gallery below is of Tony checking it out.

Two sea otters live at the aquarium, having been rescued as infants and raised by hand. The male and female otters were found in Alaska when they were four months old with a broken jaw and wounds after a boat strike, and as a 1.5 kg abandoned one day old respectively. As usual, seeing such an intelligent animal in captivity stirs up all sorts of conflicting feelings. That said, you are a stronger person than I am if you could have left these two baby otters to their natural fate (that is, death). The otters spend a lot of time (up to six hours per day) grooming, and in between keep very busy, requiring a lot of enrichment from their four keepers. It was magical to see them.

Also in the northern seas and lakes section is the puffin exhibit, mimicking the cliffs of the Faroe Islands, a Danish territory. Here, also, we found a touch pool (which the Danes call a sensing-aquarium), and a terrifying ambulatory mascot.

The second section of the building is devoted to tropical lakes and rivers, with incredible freshwater exhibits. We saw piranhas, terrapins, frogs, little black rays the size of pancakes, with white polka-dots, and electric eels. The rainforest exhibit is kept at a temperature and humidity level that are impressive in the Scandinavian winter, and I can imagine that this part of the aquarium is popular with expats from warmer climates!

The third part of the aquarium is for the rest of the ocean, and although it’s a big ask to cover (or summarise) so much in the remaining space, it does a fabulous job. The Ocean tank holds four million litres of water, and is home to rays and hammerhead sharks, and other warm water fish. Amongst many other things, there are seahorses, leafy seadragons and coral reef fish to see.

Feeding time in the Ocean tank
Feeding time in the Ocean tank

We watched feeding time for a while, which was quite funny – the aquarists row out onto the water in a small inflatable boat, and administer the snacks from on board. Standing in the tunnel, we could see the boat from below, with the oars working frantically against what I imagine was a bit of surface current.

One of the things that Den Blå Planet does really well is to integrate multimedia, virtual reality and interactive technology into the aquarium experience. This reduces the number of animals required to be on display, and – for the most part – probably takes care of itself, requiring no cleaning and feeding. My favourite such exhibit was the bouncy plankton wall in the ocean section of the aquarium. The photo below is pretty terrible because the display moves all the time, but I put a video on instagram which shows how the plankton clear a space for you when you walk along the wall.

Plankton multimedia display
Plankton multimedia display

We finished off our visit with a flæskesteg sandwich at ØST, the restaurant at the back of the aquarium. It was still a bit misty, but the large windows looking out over the sound let in a lot of light. There is a play area outside, and despite the midwinter temperatures, children in snow suits were making the most of it.

The restaurant at the aquarium, ØST
The restaurant at the aquarium, ØST

I did not get the same strong conservation message from my visit to The Blue Planet that I think the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town works so hard to propagate. This could be because of different cultural approaches to living a “green” lifestyle; in Scandinavia the government does a lot of the work for you, providing renewable energy, prioritising  pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and making it ridiculously easy to recycle, for example. In South Africa it is more of a conscious personal choice and effort to reduce one’s environmental footprint, and there is there is thus perhaps more of a requirement for direct conservation messaging.

Anyway, if you’re in Copenhagen, visit! Next time we’re in Denmark, we’ll check out the little Øresund Aquarium at Helsingor, which is entirely focused on local fauna.

Newsletter: In from the cold

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Launching at 9.00 from Oceana Powerboat Club, conditions permitting

We are back from a trip up north… Really far north – so far north that the temperatures, so I was told, were 0 – 2 degrees Celcius but to me felt like minus 50 degrees. It was great diving in False Bay this week in 22 degree water.

Clare in the (fake) snow at Tivoli
Clare in the (fake) snow at Tivoli

The weekend is a little on the questionable side as the wind and swell forecasts are not promising. I think the best option is going to be Table Bay, and If we go it will be to North and South Paw. I will take a look there tomorrow at the conditions and confirm late afternoon to those on the list if we are diving. Let me know if you’re keen to dive by email, text, or message in a bottle.

Den Blå Planet aquarium in Copenhagen
Den Blå Planet aquarium in Copenhagen

Enrichment activities

If you’re at  a loose end in the wind and feel like braving the Waterfront, check out the highly-recommended Titanic exhibition, on until March. If you buy tickets using this link, 20% of the ticket price will be donated to the NSRI.

While at the Waterfront, there’s also the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Chavonnes Battery Museum.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

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Article: Wired on the Maersk Triple E

The CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt, one of the world's largest container ships
The CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt, one of the world’s largest container ships

Photographer Alastair Philip Wiper visited a South Korean shipyard to photograph a Maersk Triple E container ship under construction. These ships are designed to be fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly than existing ships. They are 400 metres long and everything about them is dauntingly huge. Wiper is a photographer who appreciates the beauty of industrial spaces, and his images of the Triple E are breathtaking. You can read more about the Triple E class ships here.

It is my fervent hope that next time we visit family in Denmark, one of these Maersk ships is open to the public for a walkabout…

Read the Wired.com article and see Wiper’s images here.

A Day on the Bay: Around the world

Date: 26 December 2013

This Danish vessel is sailing around the world
This Danish vessel is sailing around the world

It’s not often I get to crack out some Danish here in Cape Town, but I had that opportunity just after Christmas when I met the crew of this amazing looking yacht. (It reminded us of this Danish fishing boat.) You can see the red and white Dannebrog on the stern. The group were sailing around the world, and were spending some time relaxing in Simon’s Town before the next leg of the journey.

We motored past the boat several times before the conditions were suitable for me to greet them and shoot the breeze a bit. The skipper told me (in Danish) that the rest of the crew all needed a break from the pressures of modern society, and the teamwork and focus required to skipper across the world’s oceans was just what they would benefit from. We would probably all benefit from something like that!

Afterwards we headed south towards Smitswinkel Bay, and looked for clean water.

Hej hej!

Friday photo: Record breaking shark

Record breaking great white shark
Record breaking great white shark

This model of a white shark hangs in the entrance foyer of the Guinness World Records museum on the pedestrianised street called Strøget in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m surprised by how detailed it is; you can see the ampullae of Lorenzini on its snout.

We didn’t go inside the museum – it was a sunny day, and luckily for us we can see live great white sharks with not too much effort, right at home.

Friday photo: Danish fishing boat

A Danish fishing vessel
A Danish fishing vessel

This photo of a traditional Danish fishing boat was taken at the harbour in Aabenraa, where we saw some sea jellies and some ducks. I confess to having intoned “Aaaabenraaaa” to myself for several kilometres of driving after we passed through the town.

Friday photo: Farø south bridge

One of the Farø Bridges
One of the Farø Bridges

The Danish island of Farø is connected to the islands of Falster and Zealand (Copenhagen is on Zealand) by two bridges called (surprise!) the Farø Bridges. They’re lovely. Here’s one of them, the south bridge, just under two kilometres long, seen from a rest stop on Farø. It is a cable-stayed bridge and joins Falster to Farø.

Friday photo: Great Belt bridge

The Storebælt (Great Belt) bridge
The Storebælt (Great Belt) bridge

The beautiful 18 kilometre long Storebælt bridge joins two of the many islands that make up the nation of Denmark. We missed the official viewing location, but managed to see it from below on the island of Odense during our July 2011 visit to Denmark. Driving over it was an ecstatic experience (Tony drove, while I gave myself whiplash looking out of all the car windows). The toll fee, however, was worth weeping over.