A little over twenty-five years ago, if you came to the
spot where Jenkinson’s Aquarium stands today, you
would have found a waterslide—not an exciting, twisting,
daredevil slide like those in the waterparks of today, but
a much simpler version. Nowadays a simple slide would
be quickly passed up for something more intense, more
exciting. That is the path of our progression: we charge
forward into the next newer and bigger advancement.
In 1990 cell phones were big, and if yours flipped you were
hot stuff. Now I see six-year-olds with nicer smart phones
than mine. We have become a society of technology. We
learn about the world around us through the internet, not
through being in it and experiencing it. I understand that
this technology is a useful tool to have, but is it time to
close the apps and open our eyes.
This happens for me every time I walk into the Aquarium.
I say hello to our two harbor seals, Luseal and her friend
Seaquin—both here since the Aquarium’s early days—and
bid good morning to our newer additions, like our eastern
screech owls. I go through my ever-changing process of
getting the building ready to welcome bright-eyed children,
knowing that these animals may profoundly inspire and
delight our visitors today.
When we opened twenty-five years ago, who could have
expected the impact that this small lot of land would
welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors through its
doors every year? Jenkinson’s Aquarium was conceived
with the hope of creating a place where children and adults
could experience and learn about the amazing ocean
we live next to. It was designed to be immersive, fun and
inspiring, and I think it has achieved exactly that.
You see, within these walls is a world just begging to be
explored, a place where you can put away your phone and
come face to face with a penguin or have a meet-and-greet
with a stingray. Want to know why our sharks don’t eat the
fish in their tank? Come watch us feed them, and discover
that these animals are not as scary as they seem. Did you
know we brush our seals’ teeth? You can see how, as
our trainers work on behaviors with them. It’s time to step
away from our busy lives for just a brief time here in our
underwater sanctuary. Don’t worry, those texts and emails
and calls and important papers will all be there when you
leave. Right now, today, we have a bigger responsibility: to
get back to our roots, our humanity and ourselves.
Photo courtesy of Jenkinson’s Aquarium