Wonders of Auckland’s marine world on show
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