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North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island


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    Video making it appear alligator is right next to woman's feet

    The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is a shimmering jewel in the Outer Banks. From the moment you step through the doors and are greeted with a unique preview of the resident sea life you are a captive audience. The room- sized overhead augmented reality video combines two images, the people stepping into the video on the floor painted to look like water and different sea creatures that appear to be all around your feet.

    When I entered I was greeted by an alligator but there are turtles and sharks that "swim" into the scene. Kids go crazy "playing" with the animals.  And it only gets better. You step into several wet wonderlands in the aquarium and outdoors.

    Seven Rivers introduces you to the animals that reside in and around the waters of Albemarle Sound.  You'll meet snakes, alligators, fish, frogs and turtles. There is a large stuffed alligator that you can get up close and personal with nestled on the bank of a very lifelike river.

    child looking at large stuffed alligator with marshland in background
    A young visitor is amazed at the stuffed alligator

    Among the living river dwellers there are some juvenile alligators. Four young American alligators named Ham, Cheese, Turkey and Gravy were taken from people who had illegally acquired them and now reside at the aquarium. They were about 18 inches long and around two years old in 2016. Not sure if the ones in the picture are the same. The snakes in the exhibit range from non-poisonous corn snake to the several varieties of rattlesnakes.

    small alligator on rock at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke
    One of the aquarium's young alligators

    Wild Wetlands is home to Molly, Finn and Banks, North American River otters. Molly was romping through the water when I visited. I learned she is an artist also. The otters and other animals are provided enrichment exercises to keep them alert, healthy and happy. Painting is Molly's favorite.

    sign showing Molly the otter and telling about her paintings at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    This area lets you observe turtles in a natural looking environment. Some are shy and retreat into cave-like places in their habitat. Others sit atop a log as if sunning in a river.

    Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center interactive Sea Turtle Rescue exhibit is a 3,000 square-foot combination exhibit and rescue center where staff and volunteers care for sick and injured sea turtles.

    four turtles sitting on logs at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    Eight tanks, an examination room, food prep areas with windows that allow visitors to see the turtle patients and learn about their recovery. After rehabilitation the sea turtles are released back into the wild, some are fitted with satellite transmitters so their rescuers know how they fare.

    parents and children taking part in a turtle rehabalitation exhibit at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    Children are able to take part in simulated activities replicating the turtle rescues. What a wonderful way to learn to appreciate out wild brethren.

    Sea Treasures takes you exploring sunken ships that rested at the bottom of the ocean for generations. It is so realistic you feel like you are part of a Jacques Cousteau exhibition. mother and little child looking into window in shipwreck exhibit at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    There are cannons, treasure chests, ships wheels and keygs that presumable held rum before the unfortunate incident that drove the ship to the bottom of Davy Jones' Locker.

    Lionfish hovering in fornt of sunken ships wheel at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    More importantly they show how the sunken ships now form artificial reefs  that benefit sea creatures from fish to small barnacles.

    Sea Senses is the part most kids love best. Here you touch and interact with sea creatures. Pet a stingray in their round tank or watch them swim around.

    people gathered aroudn a touch pond at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    There are multiple touch experiences here. The shallow tank offers up close and personal experiences with starfish, hermit crabs, lobsters and more shallow water sea creatures.  Instructors there are knowledgeable and helpful.

    Delicate Drifters  is home to jellyfish. A misnomer as they are neither jelly or fish. They have no fins, scales or gills. With over two hundred species, they are found in both salt and fresh water.

    Three jellyfish at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    Jellyfish are the oldest multi-celled organisms dating back in the evolutional scale 500 to 700 million years.

    display tanks in Jellyfish exhibit at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    The display room with their observation windows and floor-to-ceiling tanks give the feeling of being aboard a special display room in the Starship Enterprise. This is a wonderful place to sit and meditate on what the earth was like when these creatures first emerged in primeval oceans.

    Ironclad Sanctuary presents the story of the USS Monitor. In case you are wondering how a Civil War ironclad is connected with the aquarium, it sank in stormy seas off the coast of Cape Hatteras on December 31, 1862 as it was being towed from Virginia to Beaufort, N.C. It was re-discovered in 1973 and is designated a National Marine Sanctuary.

    large mural of USS Monitor at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    The Turret Theater with a 250 degree image of the famous battle is surrounded by interpretational panels that explain the history of the Monitor, its discovery, and how it became the first National Marine Sanctuary. There are some artifacts that were found aboard the Monitor on display.

    Graveyard of the Atlantic, a 285,000-gallon habitat adjourning the Ironclad Sanctuary, contains a one-third scale replica of the USS Monitor. The big attraction here however are the sharks swimming just feet and sometimes inches away, separated from you by just the tank's glass. Watching them glide smoothly through the water is mesmerizing.

    people stare at teh sharks and other fish swiming around a replica of the monitor at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    Another treat here is small imitation splash pond which allows kids of all ages to stamp their feet on the simulated water and see a real splash.

    Soundside Pier  behind the aquarium on the Albemarle Sound serves multiple purposes. It is a perfect place to just wonder around and enjyou the view. It is also the scene of mny of the classes offered by the aquarium such as learning about blue crabs or how to catch a fish. It's also the start of many tours the aquarium does to acquaint people with the salt marsh or the waters of the sound such as paddle boarding or kayaking. 

    Pier off the sound at North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke

    The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) granted the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island accreditation recognizing they meet the highest standards for care and treatment of their animals.




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