Instant Ocean's Seascope has article about Detroit's Belle Isle Aquarium. Apparently tank-scaping material was salvaged from the DC Aquarium (basement of Dept Commerce) and brought to Detroit (how come PVAS wasn't invited to salvage?). Paragraph Excerpt: Donations were key to the success of the aquarium's reboot and remain so today. When the National Aquarium in the basement of the Commerce Department in downtown Washington, D.C. was sadly forced to close on Sept. 30, 2013 due to renovations to the building, seven Belle Isle Aquarium volunteers were allowed to salvage what they wanted in a one-day window. At that point, the Washington live collection and much equipment had been dispersed, mostly to the Baltimore National Aquarium, and demolition of the space was set to begin. The volunteers were grateful for an opportunity to claim tank-scaping material destined for the dumpsters, and some of it is on display in Detroit today, allowing part of the legacy of the Washington Aquarium to live on, so to speak. Whole article: Welcome to Instant Ocean® SeaScope !
Forget the Motor City. The Belle Isle Aquarium is proof Detroit is truly the Miracle City. Designed by famed architect Albert Kahn in 1904, the Belle Isle Aquarium is unlike any aquarium in the world. Its story - a comeback story - is the stuff of Hollywood, and you can read all about it in this issue of SeaScope ! Learn how a small group of passionate people made the seemingly impossible a reality. But don't be surprised if you're inspired to plan a trip to Detroit ( you've always wanted to go anyway, right? )! 📷 Dr. Paul Shuert, Aquarium Curator (left) and Vance Patrick, Belle Isle Conservancy,
receive a 2,000 lb. donation of Instant Ocean® Sea Salt. To learn more about the Belle Isle Aquarium, or to donate to this amazing aquatic organization and their mission, visit their website . Belle Isle Aquarium Update By Chris Meister
On Sept. 15, 2012, a rare, if not singular, event occurred in Detroit. A grand old public aquarium harkening back to the Victorian Era reopened with a stalwart group of loosely organized volunteers at the helm. What preceded it was a pattern of neglect all too common for city-owned aquaria and zoos in municipalities beset by severe financial problems. Routine maintenance was put off until repairs became prohibitively costly in the face of declining attendance and revenue despite the best efforts of dedicated members of the staff. Eventually closure seemed justified, and it occurred on April 3, 2005. The story of its demise, along with its contributions to science, is chronicled by Jennifer Boardman and Richard Kik IV in a 2013 SeaScope article (volume 29, number 3). 📷 The Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium (FOBIA), a non-profit organization led by Vance Patrick and comprised entirely of volunteers, raised funds and awareness toward reopening the aquarium through years when the cause seemed hopeless. In 2011, FOBIA merged with other Belle Isle Advocacy groups to form the Belle Isle Conservancy (BIC). Ten months later the Aquarium reopened with the consent of the city under the auspices of BIC. The reboot of the Belle Isle Aquarium began slowly with only 10 of its 40-plus display tanks operating. (Following a mid-1950s renovation, the aquarium was outfitted with a number of tanks that could be configured as one tank, or as multiple tanks so their total number is flexible.) Public hours were initially from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays only, and in the dead of winter, it was not unusual for fewer than 30 visitors to turn out in a day. Undeterred, the volunteers continued to fundraise with popular, somewhat offbeat events (that drew capacity crowds even in absolutely wretched winter weather) and sought donations to supplement the operational budget provided by BIC. 📷 Donations were key to the success of the aquarium's reboot and remain so today. When the National Aquarium in the basement of the Commerce Department in downtown Washington, D.C. was sadly forced to close on Sept. 30, 2013 due to renovations to the building, seven Belle Isle Aquarium volunteers were allowed to salvage what they wanted in a one-day window. At that point, the Washington live collection and much equipment had been dispersed, mostly to the Baltimore National Aquarium, and demolition of the space was set to begin. The volunteers were grateful for an opportunity to claim tank-scaping material destined for the dumpsters, and some of it is on display in Detroit today, allowing part of the legacy of the Washington Aquarium to live on, so to speak. Additionally, generous donations continue to come in from other sources, including the ongoing support of Instant Ocean® brand which enables the Belle Isle Aquarium to display marine specimens while remaining free to the public. While the Belle Isle Aquarium was the third largest in the world when it opened, it has been eclipsed by the recent trend in mega-aquaria. Marine exhibits allow the Detroit aquarium to meet visitor expectations for a modern facility. The Tesselata Moray ( Gymnothorax Muraenidae ) display includes tank-scaping from Washington and involves copious amounts of Instant Ocean® products. 📷 Beginning in 2014, the state of Michigan leased Belle Isle from the City of Detroit to operate as a state park. Michigan Department of Natural Resources funds began to flow into the large island park, freeing the city to turn its attention to restoring its other parks. Improvements to Belle Isle raised awareness of it as a safe outdoor attraction where nature could be enjoyed in an urban setting. Soon, this volunteer-operated public aquarium (likely the only such operation in the world) found itself a popular underdog attraction in a city on the ascendency, following its historic bankruptcy. During this period of struggle for continued existence, the facility relied heavily on nostalgia and sentimentality: Parents and grandparents brought children to experience the wonder of their youth or recapture it for themselves. A large part of this experience was no doubt due to the building's architecture, which is exceptional without overpowering the exhibits. Noted New York Aquarium director Charles Haskins Townsend asserted in the 1920s that, "Architectural beauty, while always desirable, has little to do with the successful operation" of a public aquarium. He based this judgment on the success of the New York Aquarium despite its being housed in a building (the former Fort Clinton) long considered by many to be, in his words, "unsightly." With all respect to Dr. Townsend, this author and longtime Belle Isle Aquarium volunteer maintains that America's oldest purpose-built aquarium building owes its survival to its architecture. It was designed early in the career of Albert Kahn, the famed Detroit architect whose work eventually encompassed the globe. In his design, Kahn clearly followed the work of William Alford Lloyd, who perfected the public aquarium as a building type in the 1860s. The efficiency of the plan contributes to its successful operation. 📷 The Belle Isle Aquarium's magnificent baroque entrance sets the imagination racing. Within, the unique, variegated green Opalite glass tile ceiling is powerful in its simplicity and lends an underwater quality to the interior without descending to kitsch. Natural sky lighting and carefully recreated pendant fixtures, all restored after reopening with donated funds, provide highlights to the recently repaired and hand-cleaned tile work. The uneven glass surfaces seem to shimmer as one walks through the corridor, adding to the sense of awe experienced by visitors over 115 years. 📷 Of course, a public aquarium is not a public aquarium without exhibits, and here, too, the Belle Isle Aquarium has come a long way since reopening. Dr. Paul Shuert, the aquarium's curator, promises that by the end of the year, the facility will have all the tanks on display. Averaging about 5'x4'x4', the tanks are small by modern standards. "For this reason, we can't display whole underwater communities like you may see at other places, but we exhibit specimens you won't see elsewhere." said Shuert. For instance, one display is devoted to the Soda Cichlids ( Alcolapia ), which live in the harsh environment of Tanzania's Lake Natron. "With a small tank we are able to approach the heat (104°F) and pH levels (as high as 12) of the lake," Shuert explains. "We are unique in displaying all seven species of Gar ( Lepisosteidae ). Our primitive fish collection is extensive as well as our air breathing collection. As we bring more tanks online, we are increasing our Great Lakes Region displays." Today the Belle Isle Aquarium stands as a testament to the dedication of public-minded volunteerism. It is operated by the Belle Isle Conservancy and open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Weekend attendance during the summer of 2019 often exceeded 6,000 visitors. It is free to the public, thanks to the generous support of donors such as Instant Ocean® brand, but admission to Belle Isle State Park requires a vehicle permit. For more information, consult belleisleconservancy.org .