The Southern Agenda: December 2019/January 2020

January 3, 2020

Life Aquatic

One of the more peculiar chapters of Hurricane Katrina’s deadly landfall in 2005 took place in Gulfport, where a massive storm surge laid waste to the privately owned Marine Life aquarium, in the process washing eight bottlenose dolphins from their pool into the debris-ridden waters of the Gulf of Mexico. (Unprepared for life in the wild, they were soon rescued.) In a sense, things will come full circle when the gleaming new one-million-gallon Mississippi Aquarium opens to the public in Gulfport early in 2020, putting an exclamation point on the coast’s recovery from both Katrina and the cataclysmic BP oil spill that followed five years later. Laid out in four exhibit buildings linked by curving, landscaped pathways and boardwalks on almost six beachfront acres, the nearly $100 million facility focuses on conservation and will spotlight some three hundred species of freshwater and saltwater creatures from Mississippi and points beyond—from river otters to American crocodiles to catfish. The aquarium is designed for plenty of interaction, with touch pools, an aviary, and a thirty-foot-long acrylic tunnel that puts visitors smack dab in the middle of the main “oceanarium” tank, with sea turtles and sharks swimming above, beside, and below.


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