Penguins, Sharks and Jellies

by Brian Jewell 10. November 2011 01:53

Aquariums are some of my favorite places to visit as I travel around the country. There's sometime about coming face-to-face with exotic ocean creatures that thrills me in a way that museums and historic sites simply can't.

At Newport Aquarium, part of Newport on the Levee in Northern Kentucky, I got an up-close glimpse at hundreds of creatures, both domestic and exotic. This million-gallon aquarium features nine main exhibits, which give visitors opportunities to see marine animals from both local freshwwater and faraway oceans. The most exciting section of the aquarium is the "Surrounded by Sharks" tank, a wrap-around exhibit that has visitors walking through clear acryilic tunnels in a ginat tank as eight or nine species of sharks swim above and around their heads. It's the closest you'll ever come to deep-sea immersion without a wetsuit, and the closest you'd ever want to be to these critters without a shark cage.

I also enjoyed exhibits that showcased some of the aquarium's less ferocious residents. My co-worker Stacey and I stood mesmerized at the "Kingdom of the Penguins" exhibit, watching these lumbering birds plop off of the rocks and glide through the water with effortless ease and impressive speed. In the aquarium's aviary, we got up close to parrots and other colorful, exotic birds that pearched in low tree branches just above our heads. Some other visitors stopped to pose for pictures with the birds, who stood gently on their outstretched fingers.

My favorite display, though, was the jellyfish. These simple, translucent creatures simply amaze me — you can see right through their bodies, watching their heads undulate and their long, whispy tentatcles flutter as they ply their way through the water. The dark environment and neon lights behind the tanks give the jellies an otherworldly glow. And when you think about it, a visit to the aquarium is as close to another world as most of us will ever dare to venture.


Up close with exotic birds.

A facinating world of darkness and neon light in the jellyfish exhibit.

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Northern Kentucky

Exploring English islands

by Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry 18. September 2009 20:11

Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry are owners of Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours. You can find the original blog from their 2008 cruise around South American here, or visit the company's website at

Dec. 15 — As we reached Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, rain was forecast, and the morning started off cloudy. But by 11:00 a.m. the sun broke through and it stayed bright and sunny for the rest of the day. However, despite the bright sunlight, dressing in layers was still necessary for comfort for touring around the island.

The Falkland Islands are a protectorate of the United Kingdom and comprise about 700 islands, although only the two major islands are inhabited. The total permanent population is now approximately 3,000 and about an additional 2,500 in military and support personnel from the UK live here as well. The islands were first discovered by the Spanish in the 1500’s and Europeans were the first human settlers. It’s sovereignty was transferred back and forth among several European nations until the early 1800’s when British rule solidly took over, and was only temporarily broken during the 3 month long ‘Falkland Islands’ conflict between Argentina and the UK in 1982.

In addition to war memorials and first hand stories from the locals that lived here then, one of the most visible remnants from that short conflict are the miles and miles of land that is still totally fenced off and unusable because of the large number of land mines that the Argentians planted. It is sad that there are not enough resources (after more than 25 years) to remove these mines and let this land be useable again.

Since most of the land is privately owned, in order to get to most of the island’s penguin colonies or other interesting sights it is required that you do this through an official tour. We decided to take the three-hour tour to Bluff Cove to see a large colony of over 1,000 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins and also several breeding pairs of King penguins. The first 15 minutes of the tour out of Stanley was conducted on a mini-bus and we then transferred into land rover vehicles for an incredible 30-minute journey across an amazing landscape of rocky outcroppings and peat bogs. It was the first time I was in a four-wheel drive vehicle where all of its functionalities were put to the test. The journey was worth the effort for the amount of quality time we got to spend near the penguin colonies at sea’s edge, and the excellent photo opportunities.

After this exciting tour we returned to Stanley and went to the ‘Globe Tavern’ for some very British Fish & Chips. We also had time for some further sightseeing and shopping in town and then had a pleasant tender ride back to our ship.

Penguins at Punto Arenas

by Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry 17. September 2009 20:43

Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry are owners of Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours. You can find the original blog from their 2008 cruise around South American here, or visit the company's website at


Dec. 12 — We joined most passengers and many crew members in rising early to enjoy a day ashore in Punta Arenas, (Sandy Point) Chile. This port city had a quite busy past as a key port of call for ships sailing around South America before the opening of the Panama Canal. Large sheep ranches (estancias) were also developed in the 1800’s and some are still operating today. In fact on our drive to Ottway Bay to see the Magellenic Penguins we were able to witness some gauchos on horseback with their dogs herding their sheep. And yes, a visit to the Penguin colony about 40 miles from Punta Arenas was one of the most popular shore excursion choices. We got to see many of these very ‘social’ penguins coming and going from their burrows, and gathering on the beach and frolicking in the ocean. Another treat was seeing South American Condors flying in the wild.

After returning to the city center we then found a restaurant by the harbor for Russ to sample several variations of the local King Crab – ‘centolla’ – it passed his quality control with high marks. We also enjoyed seeing many of the historic Victorian style buildings and a lovely town square where many local craftsmen were selling their wares.

Dec. 13 — The fantastic scenery of the Chilean and Argentinian Fjords has been non-stop. Daylight (before 6:00 a.m.) brought a continuation of the beautiful snow-capped mountain scenery as our ship threaded through the fjords and then entered the famous Beagle Channel. ‘Beagle’ was the name of the ship that Charles Darwin sailed on for several years during his South America explorations. Numerous alpine hanging glaciers were seen and many tidewater and melting glaciers as well as waterfalls. Most of these glaciers are named after various countries.

We then arrived at Ushuaia, Argentina around noon. This small city is nestled on a large harbor and sheltered by the mountains and glaciers. Many tour opportunities were offered and we chose to take a three hour tour to ‘Tierra Del Fuego National Park’ where we were treated to splendid views across the Beagle Channel, the scenic and wave-crested Roco Lake and other areas of interest. We then enjoyed time for shopping, sightseeing and dining in this town which claims to be at the ‘end of the world – where life begins’. Russ again was happy to sample the local ‘Centolla’ – King Crab and Susan enjoyed the famed Argentian beef steak and local Malbec wine.

Ushuaia also has a fairly large airport and is the ‘jumping off point’ for many tourist and scientific expeditions to Antarctica, and to the southern regions of wild Patagonia. The buildings and houses are quite an eclectic mix of many styles — some reminiscent of the Swiss Alps — although many built from corrugated iron in many colors, complete with ‘gingerbread’ type decorations.

Dec. 14 — Although not a port day, this morning was certainly one of the highlights of the cruise, and another ‘world class geographic landmark’ – sailing around ‘Cape Horn’. Cape Horn is the southern most point of South America and originally named after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands by Dutch sailors. (All passengers and crew are now ‘mossbacks’ after making this passage.) It’s the northern most point of the Drake Passage and just a few hundred miles from Antarctica.

At certain times of year these waters can be rough and hazardous, but on a late Spring morning like this the waters were very calm and only a light breeze was blowing. The partial cloudiness also broke into bright sunshine and it was a great morning to take photos from your balcony or the upper decks. Our port lecturer gave pertinent commentary for about an hour and a half during our circumnavigation of the Cape Horn island. The rocky island is partially covered by grasses and mosses and some amazing rock formations are situated at the island’s edges. On such a clear day the ‘Albatross’ monument erected to the memory of sailors who have lost their lives was also very visible. After this glorious morning, we began sailing in a northeasternly direction toward the Falkland Islands.

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