Won­ders of Auck­land’s marine world on show

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABADIA

DID you know the ocean con­tains the most po­ten­tial for life on the planet?

Or that at least half of our avail­able oxy­gen is pro­vided by mi­cro­scopic phy­to­plank­ton?

Auck­land Mu­seum’s ma­jor marine ex­hi­bi­tion Moana – My Ocean aims to shed light on what lies be­neath the sur­face of the wa­ter.

The free ex­hi­bi­tion en­com­passes five marine zones: Auck­land’s east coast in­clud­ing the Firth of Thames; Okahu Bay and Leigh Marine Re­serve; the Hau­raki Gulf; the mid­wa­ter and deep­wa­ter zones; and the Ker­madec Is­lands.

Ex­hi­bi­tion de­vel­oper Vic­to­ria Travers says: ‘‘The idea is to im­merse vis­i­tors in the marine world as much as pos­si­ble and show them why we need to pro­tect the ocean.

‘‘Seventy-one per cent of the earth’s sur­face is ocean but less than 1 per cent of it is fully pro­tected.’’

The lo­ca­tions re­cre­ate the biodis­cov­ery ex­pe­di­tion which trav­elled from main­land New Zealand to the Ker­madec Is­lands two years ago and was led by the mu­seum’s head of nat­u­ral sciences Dr Tom Trn­ski.

‘‘The ex­hi­bi­tion takes peo­ple from an area they are fa­mil­iar with to the un­fa­mil­iar.

‘‘The mid-wa­ter and deep sea sec­tions are very un­fa­mil­iar as are the Ker­madecs be­cause so few peo­ple have been there,’’ he says.

A high­light of the ex­hi­bi­tion is the shark area, which con­tains rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the 13 sharks that call the Hau­raki Gulf home. Th­ese in­clude life-size repli­cas of a great white, mako, thresher and a bronze whaler.

Most peo­ple don’t re­alise the sharks are there, Dr Trn­ski says.

‘‘We are ex­pos­ing them to the top preda­tors which ex­ist in the gulf. Not in a sen­sa­tion­al­ist way, it’s more so peo­ple un­der­stand the rel­a­tive size of th­ese things and also how mag­nif­i­cent th­ese sharks look.

‘‘All the teeth have been moulded from real shark teeth and the sen­sory pores around the snout which de­tect vi­bra­tion and move­ment are based on the real thing.’’

A few steps away from the sharks, vis­i­tors en­counter the boil-up, which uses ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to demon­strate what hap­pens when a big shoal of small fish gets rounded up into a bait ball by preda­tors such as king­fish, Bryde’s whales and dol­phins.

The shoal of about 4000 robotic pilchard have in­di­vid­ual ‘‘brains’’ and re­spond to each other in­de­pen­dently, Dr Trn­ski says.

‘‘Ev­ery time a per­son walks into the space they are go­ing to have a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence both in terms of the way the preda­tors move and the way the pilchard re­spond,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s tech­nol­ogy that has been used in film but it is the first time it has ever been pre­sented in this way in an ex­hi­bi­tion.’’

An­other high­light of the ex­hi­bi­tion and some­thing that in­spires Ms Travers is the beauty of the smaller life forms; in par­tic­u­lar the one-cen­time­tre baby oc­to­pus which was dis­cov­ered liv­ing in sea­weed stuck to a rock.

Through the power of aug­mented re­al­ity vis­i­tors can see the oc­to­pus and the many other species the kelp houses.

They ap­pear to spring to life in holo­graphic form as you place each tile un­der a mi­cro­scope.

There is also a video about the on­go­ing restora­tion of Okahu Bay by youth group Ngati Whatua Ran­gatahi. The shell­fish mon­i­tor­ing pro­gramme un­der­taken by stu­dents at Orakei School aims to restore the mauri, or life force, of the bay.

The neat thing about the video pro­ject is the way it cap­tures the goal of the ex­hi­bi­tion, Dr Trn­ski says.

‘‘Through the stu­dents do­ing the re­search they have in­creased their knowl­edge about how to man­age the marine en­vi­ron­ment and what needs to change to im­prove it.’’

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz to see a video about the cre­ation of the shark repli­cas

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