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Stephanie Wright Hession
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Out and About: California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
At the California Academy of Sciences, spend the day
observing creatures that inhabit four of the world's rain forests, admire the
wonders of the sea and take a trip through space inside the academy's
light-filled, glass-walled building housing the Kimball Natural History Museum,
Steinhart Aquarium and the Morrison Planetarium. Renowned for its research and
educational programs, the academy focuses upon 11 scientific fields, including
anthropology and aquatic biology.
-Stephanie Wright Hession
All photos by Stephanie Wright Hession and may not be reproduced.
1. The Swamp
People look down into this tank from the
sea-horse-patterned railing, a fond remnant of the old Steinhart Aquarium, to
watch an albino alligator lazing on a rock, while alligator snapping turtles
paddle in the surrounding fresh water. Downstairs, an underwater window offers
another perspective, and a separate tank nearby contains alligator gars.
2. Rainforests of
A bird's call resonates through the humid air of this
four-story, glass-sphere tropical rain forest. Its circular path winds past
elements of rain forests in the Amazon River Basin, Borneo, Madagascar and
Costa Rica, where birds and butterflies fly among visitors.
3. West Garden
One of two gardens, it offers an inviting space to relax.
Sit on one of the benches on its oblong lawn or eat lunch alfresco at the
outdoor dining areas of the Academy Cafe,
while surrounded by the beauty of Golden Gate Park.
A glass elevator descends to the ground floor and the
entrance to the Amazon Flooded Forest portion of the "Rainforests of the
World." Here, mesmerized observers inside an acrylic tunnel view the
underside of the sphere's Amazon River Basin, where massive catfish, arapaimas,
other fish and turtles swim overhead.
5. Steinhart Aquarium
Brilliantly colored reef fish dart through the waters of
the Philippine Coral Reef tank. Nearby, rock fish and other marine life native
to the Gulf of the Farallon Islands navigate through seaweed in the Northern
California Coast tank. Don't miss Water Planet, Discovery Tidepool and an
African penguin colony, upstairs in the African Hall.
6. Living Roof
The benefits of this 2 1/2-acre undulating, living roof,
planted with sea pinks and other native California plants, include a natural
ventilation system utilizing the outside environment to cool the building's
indoor spaces, an ability to absorb up to 3.6 million gallons of water and
insulation that keeps it 40 degrees cooler than a traditional roof.