Hello Friends and Family,

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Part 1

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Many parents have purchased an aquarium as an educational object for their children. In the early 1980s, David and Lucile Packard did the same for their daughter, Julie, who majored in marine algae studies at U.C. Santa Cruz. Note that David Packard was one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard and had deeper pockets than most parents. They donated an estimated $55M to establish the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Julie Packard serves as its executive director.

I have a special feeling for the Aquarium because I was working for HP as a Systems Engineer (HP speak for Field Software Engineer) when it opened. The Aquarium had an HP 3000 computer for their data processing needs and although another SE "owned" the account, I visited the facility on several occasions to update software and just to check on how things were going. Thus, for several reasons, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has a special place in my heart, still today. Therefore, it was mandatory in my mind to visit the Aquarium during my visit to Northern California this past summer.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium stands on the site of the largest fish-packing plant in Monterey's historic Cannery Row, the Hovden Cannery. This photo shows a bit of "The Way It Was".

People have always fished on Monterey Bay. For ages, people have pulled salmon, abalone, sardines and more from the rich waters of the bay. The catch was eaten fresh or dried, until 1895, when the first local cannery opened. A small-scale salmon operation, it soon switched to focus on sardines.

Canneries shifted fishing into high gear. Sardine canneries spurred innovation. New boats and nets increased the sardine catch, new cooking methods made for better-tasting fish, and new machines led to quicker canning. As the industry grew, more people fished and canneries hired more workers to keep up.

Even though this is an old photo, Cannery Row looks much the same today except that the names on the signs and the vintage of the cars are different.

The sardine industry boomed. If you stood here in the 1930s or '40s, your senses would reel from the din of machines, the stink of fish, the slosh of cold sea water. This cannery and 20 others were running day and night, turning a silver stream of sardines into products for people.

Then the industry collapsed. At the height of the sardine-fishing boom, Cannery Row processed 250,000 tons of fish a year. Then the fish disappeared. In five years, the catch fell by more than 90%. Most canneries closed and the Row became a ghost town.

Now Cannery Row and the sardines are back. Today, Cannery Row is back to life. Sardines are back in this building — and more importantly, they're back in the bay. People catch fish for a living again. But now we know, and maybe we'll heed: there are limits to the stream of silver from the bay.

I find it interesting that in building the Monterey Bay Aquarium, they decided to preserve some of the machinery that made the cannery run. Here we see a boiler. The sign reads as follows.

Operating the Boilers

A boiler operated long, hot, dangerous days.

First on the job and last to leave, a boiler operator often worked 16-hour days. He fired up the boilers and kept them burning as long as there were fish to can. Soaked by billowing steam, he regulated the intense pressure and scalding temperatures inside the boilers.

How do you fire up a boiler?

* Turn on the electricity to power the lights, fans and compressor.
* Open the boiler vents to air out any excess gases.
* Check oil levels in the compressor and pumps.
* Set the water level in the boilers and the water softening tank.
* Adjust the air flow: not too much, not too little.
* Use a torch to light the gas pilot, and turn up the burners to fire the boilers.

There wasn't just one boiler but several in the cannery and preserved for us to observe.

On a nearby wall was an old advertisement for one of the products produced by the Hovden Cannery.

After that educational and entertaining trip back a century ago, I entered the area containing what I consider to be the star of the Aquarium, the kelp tank. It is huge and requires acrylic wall panels up to seven inches thick. A large damper causes the water to move in one direction than the opposite to simulate ocean wave action. There are at least a couple dozen species of sea life in the kelp tank — the star in this photo is the huge school of Northern Anchovies.

If you are not in the Bay Area, you can still view the tank via their webcam by clicking here.

I was able to get close to the tank and this photogenic fish (which I think is a grouper) came to find out what I was doing.

Backing away from the kelp tank, you get to see the visitors staring in amazement at the underwater world that they rarely see. We all love it.

I find it interesting that sharks are included in the kelp tank. One might think that they would eat all the other fish. I guess not.

Last for today is an artistic historic view of Monterey and the fishing industry. Interesting.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com