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Georgia Aquarium Draws Enthusiastic Crowds

  • Song Lin
  • Xiao Hong

Atlanta, the home of Coca Cola and cable news giant CNN, now has another landmark: the Georgia Aquarium.

Since its grand opening last November, the world's largest aquarium has attracted tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. This report is narrated by Elaine Lu.

Standing in front of the huge viewing windows inside the aquarium is a mesmerizing experience. Thousands of fish of different species and size live more or less harmoniously in this wonderland. How many are here? Five thousand? Ten thousand? Actually, there are 65,000, representing 500 species.

Whale sharks are the stars. They are the world's biggest fish. Ralph and Norton are both more than 16 feet long [about 5 meters], and they have not even reached adulthood! They are the only such sharks in captivity outside of Asia.

Ralph and Norton -- the names are a joke based on an old American TV show -- were caught off the coast of Taiwan. Before they could be eaten, the folks from the Georgia Aquarium bought them and had them shipped to the U.S. It took a 747 jetliner to transport the two babies, who are doing well -- maybe too well.

Tim Berger was part of the team that brought them here. “They are doing amazingly well. In fact, they are so eating so voraciously, they are eating so much, that we have to keep them on the diet or they get too fat, but they've each probably grown a foot or a little more [a third of a meter] since they arrived. They've been doing great.”

Tim says an adult whale shark could grow to be 40 feet long [13 meters], the size of a bus. This huge habitat houses six adult whale sharks. Imagine six buses going back and forth without getting in each other's way.

Elsewhere in the tanks you can find the blue whale, the turtle, the leafy sea dragon, pacific octopus, and clown fish, and thousands of others whose names we don't even know. It's amazing.

These scuba divers are not here for fun. There are a dozen of them around, doing everything from safety checks, to cleaning the tanks and the coral. And once in a while they pose for the visitors as well.

Kimberly Hall is more than a scuba diver. She is a marine biologist, in charge of a coral reef habitat.

That kind of hands-on experience is part of what the Aquarium wants people to find here. The idea is to give people a different way of seeing things and to make them care about ocean life and the environment.

The different experience includes the 100-foot long [33 meter] tunnel for viewing the whale sharks, and the unique perspective of looking at a river from underneath it.

“The tanks, especially the tank you walk through was amazing; the sharks, the whales, beluga whales…” exclaimed one visitor.

“It's great. We loved it. It's the best aquarium ever; it's the best I've ever been to,” said a couple of other fans of the aquarium.

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