Landmark aquarium runs aground on funding shortfall

13th July 2008, Comments 0 comments

Stralsund's brand new state-funded aquarium has been massively scaled back due to financial constraints, nevertheless the end result is still impressive

Stralsund -- A big new attraction devoted to the world's oceans will be inaugurated Friday in the German port town of Stralsund, but some displays will be incomplete because government funding has run out.

Ozeaneum is an architecturally dramatic extension containing 39 huge fish tanks to the existing Oceanography Museum in Stralsund, an old-world town on the Baltic Coast.

Just two-and-a-half hours' drive north-west of Berlin, visitors can discover what is going on in a mysterious world that makes up 70 per cent of our planet's surface. Life on Earth began in the oceans, which remain a vast source of food for fish, sea mammals and people.

Harald Benke, director of the Oceanography Museum, says, "We still don't even know about many species of creature in the deep oceans."

Only 2.4 square kilometres of the deeps have ever been properly surveyed, using submarine probes. Statistically that is so little that it barely even counts as a sample of the whole surface worldwide.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who represents voters from the coastal region in the Bundestag parliament, is scheduled to attend the inauguration Friday of the biggest purpose-built museum to open in Germany this year, with visitors to be admitted from Saturday

The old museum occupies a former church. The 60-million-euro (95- million-dollar) extension could not be more different, comprising four rounded, steel-clad buildings joined by a glass foyer.

Although the structure nestles between ancient port warehouses and the whole town centre is a UNESCO world heritage site, UNESCO has approve the modern-style Ozeaneum as an enrichment.

An architecture office from the German city of Stuttgart, Behnisch & Partner, designed the oval and kidney-shaped buildings, which vaguely give the impression of giant rocks rubbed smooth by glaciers.

The tanks inside focus on different undersea environments of the world's colder seas, including the port basin of Stralsund complete with underwater rubbish such as a rusting discarded bicycle.

Visitors can also see what the depths of the Atlantic Ocean and the teeming, ice-covered Greenland Basin are like.

Visitors doing the recommended tour end up at a 1.5-million-euro display which was paid for by the environmentalist lobby group Greenpeace. The room contains full-scale replicas of seven whale species.

"We want visitors to see exactly what we will lose if whales become extinct," said Thomas Henningsen, who heads the Greenpeace project. The museum says the site contains the world's best library of whale books and data.

The live fish at Ozeaneum will live in the 39 aquarium tanks, which have a total capacity of 6 million litres.

That is enough water to fill a bathtub 60,000 times over. To ensure it is disease free, it will come from the city water system and have 200 tons of salt added to make it similarly saline to sea- water.

Benke says the site is more educational than commercial aquarium attractions such as Sea Life at other Baltic Coast towns. It encourages children and parents to consider questions such as "Do fish drink?" or why the deep sea is such an extreme environment.


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