Tag Archives: Seattle Aquarium

Amusing Monday: Ray Troll visits Puget Sound with Ratfish Wranglers

Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers, one of the most amusing bands in the Pacific Northwest, is touring Western Washington this month, with stops in Port Townsend, Gig Harbor and Seattle.

Two years ago, when writing about how fishermen can save rockfish from barotrauma, I featured a video by Ray and the band in Water Ways (June 22, 2015). This video includes a rockfish puppet and an original rap song by Ray Troll and Russell Wodehouse telling all about the problem.

Besides music, Ray is well known for his “fin art,” which is mostly about fish of all kinds, especially salmon. Ray prides himself on the realistic images of fish, produced with scientific precision, which he combines with humor to create some edgy posters.

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Amusing Monday: Battle of the depths

Note: I’m on vacation for the next 10 days, so I’m repeating an “Amusing Monday” entry from Aug. 4, 2008, which features a “National Geographic” video dramatizing a battle between a shark and an octopus.

When I first ran this item, I did not know for sure where this action took place. I later got the full story of the shark-versus-octopus battle from staff at the Seattle Aquarium. See “Amusing Monday” for Aug. 12, 2008.

As for my vacation, I’m sticking around home, so I may post a few blog entries if I get a chance.

This might not be the kind of story that triggers the normal kind of laughter.

In fact, now that I think about it, this video ought to come with a warning. “Caution: This video contains violence of the animal kind.” OK, it’s really not that bad.

I’ve been trying to figure out where this event took place. The animals involved are Northwest natives, but the video does not say which aquarium was involved. I’ve put in an inquiry to National Geographic, but they have not checked back yet.

An Internet search reveals several comments linking this event to the Seattle Aquarium, but none of them are official sites. At least one site mentions a connection with the Oregon Coast Aquarium. If anybody knows more, please let me know.

Amusing Monday: Leonard the goldfish gets fired

Leonard the goldfish hasn’t lost his dry sense of humor — even after last week, when the Seattle Aquarium kicked him out the door on his tail fin.

Leonard explains his sudden exile in the three-minute video below.

If you don’t know Leonard’s life story, this is a tiny goldfish with an unusual determination. Leonard begged and pleaded for more than three years to get into the aquarium. Once inside, it appears that being a star went to his head. Now Leonard is back on the street.

Leonard’s story begins in 2007. You get a sense for his yearning to be an aquarium fish from YouTube videos of May 23, 2007, Sept. 6, 2007, June 11, 2008, and another from June 11, 2008.

The “Let Leonard In” campaign grew out of the desire of an ambitious little goldfish to become part of the Big Show among sea creatures.

In this Jan. 8, 2009, video, Leonard explains his entire campaign to get in — including his radio spots, billboards, transit advertising, direct appeals and even an appearance in the Seattle Torchlight Parade.

Leonard was even honored with a special theme song from The Band of Seahorses.

People voted online to “Let Leonard In,” and he finally reached the tipping point. On Sept. 10, KING 5 News broke the story: “Leonard the Goldfish was welcomed to the Seattle Aquarium after a three-year campaign to prove that he is worthy. After gathering 60,000 votes, Leonard has now been dubbed the official greeter (for the aquarium).”

Leonard initially earned a spot in the janitor’s closet, but support from voters was so overwhelming that aquarium staff could not deny him a place right out front in the lobby, starting on Sept 10.

He barely stayed there a month, however, when he was fired for his bad behavior. That’s outlined well enough in the embedded video above. The future of our little friend is now uncertain, but it’s good to see that he has not lost his perspective on life.

Tim Kuniholm, Seattle Aquarium’s marketing director, told me this morning that Leonard’s story is not over.

“You have to stay tuned,” Tim said. “If I know anything about Leonard, he’s going to keep trying to get in. He is remorseful for his behavior, and I’m sure he will continue his campaign.”

Amusing Monday: You’ve got to love an octopus

In recognition of Octopus Week at the Seattle Aquarium, I’m putting up a few videos for your entertainment and education. I’m posting this “Amusing Monday” early, so you can review the list of events at the Seattle Aquarium beginning this weekend.

First, before getting to the serious stuff, I’d like to start with an animated short film, “Oktapodi.” The film started out as a graduate school project by a team of French animators from Gobelins L’Ecole de L’Image. The production was nominated for an Academy Award during last year’s presentation and won numerous honors at film festivals.

The YouTube version here is OK, but if you want to see the film in full quality and can wait for the video to download, visit the official Oktapodi Web site and view the QuickTime version.

Back to the real world, check out this BBC video showing a diver up close with a giant Pacific octopus.

Elsewhere, the so-called mimic octopus is a fascinating creature, as shown in this video shot in Indonesia.

Finally, completing the tour, here’s a video from the Seattle Aquarium Web, which includes this sea creature as well as others.

Update on shark-versus-octopus battle

Last week’s “Amusing Monday” entry was indeed shot at the Seattle Aquarium — and there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

The announcer in the video doesn’t say where the scene was shot, so I put out a request for information. Thanks go to Susan Berta of Orca Network for putting me in touch with folks at Seattle Aquarium, which ultimately led to an interview with biologist and lead diver Jeff Christiansen, who was involved in shooting the video.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Aquarium

Before 1987, the dome exhibit often included three octopuses — the number required to almost guarantee that people would see one, Christiansen told me. The octopuses would hang out in a recessed area under the lower windows inside the tank, he said. That was before the rocky reefs were installed.

Also in the tank were a number of dogfish sharks, another native of the Puget Sound region. But not all the dogfish survived.

“If you were lucky enough, you could see it happen,” he said. “They would wait for fish to swim by, then you’d see the arms flash out and a bit of a struggle. Whatever the octopus didn’t eat was chucked out.”

Frequently, aquarium workers would arrive in the morning to see the remains right in front of the viewing windows. The middle of the dogfish carcasses were completely eaten down to the bones, but the head and tail were intact.

“It was considered bad to have dead animals sitting down there in the tank when you opened up (the exhibit) in the morning,” Christiansen said.

Divers, who normally went into the tanks in the afternoon, had to put on their gear and make a special trip into the tank, he said. Today, divers are in the tank several times a day.

Although the sharks were easy to replace, especially in those days, aquarium managers were worried about losing rare and valuable fish, he said. In fact, once an octopus was able to eat a sizable salmon before the decision was made to take the octopus out.

Anyway, about 10 years ago, Mike DuGruy of National Geographic Films was doing a feature on octopuses when he heard the story about the shark-eating creatures.

“He came to us and asked if we could recreate the situation,” Christiansen said. “Being the film-whores we are, we said ‘sure.’”

The details of the recreation are somewhat proprietary, Christiansen said. But that’s how the dramatic battle of the shark and the octopus came to be a National Geographic story.

Today, with the recent remodel of the aquarium, octopuses have their own space. With divers in the tanks several times a day, they could feed the octopuses enough so the animals wouldn’t go after fish, Christiansen said. Still no decisions have been made to put octopuses back in the big tank.