Go nose-to-nose with seals at Seattle Aquarium

  • By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
  • Thursday, June 20, 2013 12:22pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Barney, Q and Siku snagged one of the best condos in Seattle.

Their new digs have killer waterfront views and an indoor pool.

The only thing they don’t have is privacy.

Visitors to the Seattle Aquarium get a front-row view of the three harbor seals’ living room without getting wet.

The $6.5 million addition was completed earlier this month. Gone is the chain-link fence previously sealing the habitat.

Clear acrylic walls offer a unique glimpse of the roly-poly whiskered mammals doing their thing above and below the water.

These aren’t showbiz seals. They don’t bounce balls off their noses or jump through rings. They eat fish and swim around. When tired, they kick back on the dry rocks — “haul out,” as it’s known in seal speak.

The project expanded the seals’ lounge, pool and the Pier 60 boardwalk.

“It’s a better experience for them and for us,” aquarium spokeswoman Laura Austin said.

Benches seat 100 people or three classrooms of schoolchildren.

During the three daily shows, trainers tell about the importance of seals to Puget Sound and entertain questions. For the seals, it’s a free lunch of fish and sometimes a tooth brushing afterwards.

“They are trained to participate in their own health care,” Austin said.

Here’s who’s who: Barney is a spotted silver-gray 28-year-old male. Q is a dark-colored 14-year-old male. Eight-year-old Siku, a petite gray-and-black female, is on breeding loan from Point Defiance Zoo &Aquarium in Tacoma

During the nine month remodel, the seals stayed at Point Defiance Zoo.

For Q, it was a working vacation.

“While there, Q impregnated two of their harbor seals, and two pups were born in recent weeks,” Austin said. “That’s good. It’s a cooperative breeding program.”

Very cooperative, it seems.

Will Siku be next?

Seattle Aquarium

The aquarium is at 1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59, Seattle. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (exhibits closie at 6 p.m.).

Admission: Adults $21.95; youth, ages 4 to 12, $14.95. Children 3 and younger are admitted free.

Harbor seal shows: 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily. An interpreter is on hand from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Talks and feedings at the fur seal and sea otter habitats are at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

For more information: www.seattleaquarium.org or call 206-386-4300.

Also at the aquarium

  • Window on Washington Waters: A 20-by-40 foot tank in the lobby is home to about 800 fish and invertebrates indigenous to local waters. It is designed to replicate the Neah Bay seascape. Divers answer questions in sessions at 10 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. daily.
  • Family Activity Center: Story time at 11 a.m. daily, with marine-themed stories.
  • Life on the Edge: Visitors can get their fingers wet in the touch tanks where they can stroke a sea cucumber and feel the prickly spines of a sea urchin. Meet the octopus sessions are at noon and 4 p.m. daily.
  • Dome Room: The undersea dome is like being in a fish tank. Salmon, lingcod, sharks, rockfish, sturgeon and skates circle the dome. Divers feed the fish at 1:30 p.m. daily.

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