Now at Natural History Museum: Oceans 2018

The virtual tide at the “Unseen Oceans” exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, opening on Mar. 12. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | The tide is rolling in and out at the fourth floor galleries of the American Museum of Natural History with its newest exhibition, “Unseen Oceans,” which opens Mar. 12. It’s quite a realistic projection — a virtual beach — and sets the tone for a show exploring the tiniest as well as the grandest of creatures that make the ocean their habitat.

The exhibition is an introduction to one of the last frontiers, the deep, deep ocean. Little of these vast realms have been explored but with 21st-century technologies — robotics, satellite monitoring, miniaturization, more refined submersibles, and high-def imaging — this frontier is opening up.

In a series of round galleries and through interactive and case displays, live animals, and videos, mysteries of the deep — involving the oceans’ inhabitants as well as the challenges and processes of finding them — are revealed.

A model whale enters the 180-degree screen in the “Encountering Giants” gallery. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

The visitor first comes across the drifters — microscopic plankton and comb jellies (ctenophores), organisms of immense environmental importance that float with the winds and currents.

In the next hub, the most colorful of the exhibits has models of biofluorescent marine life, organisms that absorb light and remit it in bright colors and patterns. This exhibit also includes live chain catsharks, among the marine life whose vivid fluorescence has only recently been discovered. Other live animals on display in this hub include scorpionfish, eels, and seahorses.

The “Encountering Giants” gallery, with its 180-degree projection screen, takes you to the opposite scale of marine life, with animation of a blue whale, which can grow to 80 feet long, devouring a giant squid and humpback whales feeding on krill. Manta rays, turtles, and giant ocean sunfish, which can reach six feet in length, glide past the viewer on the huge screen.

A galloping seahorse is on display. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

In a small theater elsewhere in the exhibition, a short video portrays creatures that live at different ocean depths. Videos in another hub chronicle how conservationists are protecting marine life in threatened habitats.

An actual submersible, the exploratory vehicle of the deep, is part of the exhibition, and submersible interactives allow visitors to pilot an underwater vessel into an animated realm to discover, survey, collect samples, and even respond to an emergency.

Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface and the museum’s exhibition offers insight into the latest in ocean science as well as encounters with researchers and the technologies they employ.

Models of biofluorescent fish with their brilliant colors. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

“Only recently did my colleagues and I reveal the widespread incidence of biofluorescence among marine fishes,” explained Dr. John Sparks, the exhibition’s curator who works in the museum’s Department of Ichthyology. “I’ve been continually astonished at the ingenuity of my fellow marine scientists as they’ve utilized and adapted the latest technologies to make discoveries.” In “Unseen Oceans,” Sparks added, visitors “will learn about that research as they meet the scientists.”

A video display of turtles of the deep. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

The Dalio Foundation, which has the environment and conservation among its areas of concerns, is the exhibition’s lead funder through its OceanX initiative. “I am wild about the oceans,” said Ray Dalio. “And I believe that ocean exploration is as exciting and important as space exploration. In ‘Unseen Oceans,’ the museum has elicited the thrill and awe, as well as the importance, of what ocean explorers are discovering today.”

“Unseen Oceans” offers views of the deep waters not previously available. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

“Unseen Oceans” ($23-$33 for adults, $18-$27 for students, adults 60-plus, $13-$20 under 12 at runs Mar. 12-Jan. 6, 2019 at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park W. at 79th St. Open daily, 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m. An educator’s guide, valuable for visitors with children, is online at

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