Thursday, December 30, 2010

Manatees Struggle with Cold Temps in Florida

The recent cold snap has proven to be a big challenge for Florida's endangered manatees. NBC News recently reported on efforts to help keep these gentle giants warm:

Each year, the Tennessee Aquarium offers a chance to meet some of these incredible animals. This year, the Snorkel with the Manatees Weekend is scheduled for Friday, January 28th to Sunday, January 30th. It is truly an awe-inspiring weekend.

The excursion begins with a Friday night departure, giving everyone a chance to get some shut-eye en-route to Florida. When you wake up, it's time for a hearty breakfast before drift-snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the slow-moving Rainbow River. You'll be amazed at the size and number of gars, turtles and other aquatic animals you'll see on this stretch of water.
Next it's off to visit the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, home to manatees, alligators, birds and other fantastic animals such as "Lu," the park's lovable hippopotamus.

If you're lucky, you'll get to hear Lu "laughing" or see him enjoying the gentle spray from a hose. He'll open wide for this.

Strolling through the park is worth the trip and the staff does a tremendous job during narrated programs several times each day. Make sure you stop by the underwater viewing window to observe the fish and manatees. Learn more about this wonderful park here:

On Sunday, Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist Rob Mottice leads the group to a special location within the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge to snorkel with the manatees. Rob is an expert on the West Indian manatee and he works diligently to ensure the safety of these protected creatures while everyone is in the water with them.
It's difficult to describe your first encounter with a manatee. These guys are HUGE! Frequently they will slowly ease up to you in the water, looking you directly in the eye. These face to face encounters inspire many people to contribute to the agencies that are working to save these animals from extinction.

Over the years there has been real progress, but manatees still face challenges such as boat strikes. Sadly, many of these animals are scarred from boat propellers that have torn deep gashes in their backs.

Manatees can grow to 13 feet in length, occasionally tipping the scales at more than 3,000 pounds. While you're in the water, make sure you listen carefully. These creatures communicate with squeaks and squeals. Sometimes they vocalize when playing, excited or frightened. Often, the sounds you hear are a mother manatee calling to its calf.

Magical may be the word that best describes being in the water with these remarkable animals. Hopefully conservation efforts will be able to save them from disappearing forever.

To learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium's Travel Adventures like the Snorkel with the Manatees Weekend, go to:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snowy cruises in the Gorge

A snowy 3.5 mile hike to the rim of the Tennessee River Gorge provided a chance to glimpse the River Gorge Explorer from above. Edward's Point had about seven inches of snow and the view was worth braving the cold trek through the woods. Last winter, a January snowstorm gave passengers an opportunity to view the mountains decked in white, but the cloudy skies obscured the tops. Here's a glimpse of that cruise:

The Gorge is spectacular when there is snow on the ground. While the snow will be melting soon, there's time to enjoy a "Critter Cruise" through January 2nd. An Aquarium educator will present a special tale and introduce passengers to a couple of native creatures. Learn more about these special cruises here:

Throughout the winter, there are also great birding opportunities. Last winter, additional bald eagles were seen in the Gorge, perhaps forced further south due to harsh weather further north.

You never know what you'll see when you come out of your shell and enjoy the river this time of year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cold snap bad for snapping turtle?

The alligator snapping turtles in the Tennessee Aquarium's Delta Swamp exhibit are very popular animals. Especially the male, who is absolutely huge. His giant head and shell make him look positively prehistoric.
The recent cold snap had at least one nature lover questioning the welfare of snapping turtles that live in the area. It's a good question, and fortunately, Karla got a great answer from Tennessee Aquarium senior herpetologist Bill Hughes.
"I have been keeping an eye on a baby alligator snapping turtle all summer that is living in a mud puddle down by the creek at my house. My concerns are probably stupid but I was wondering what will happen to the baby when the puddle dries up or cold weather comes. I know he must be eating bugs because he is about 20 feet from the creek itself but what will he eat when it dries up. Should I help him to the creek or leave him alone. I don’t want anyone to run over him but soon hunters will be coming down this small muddy road and I am afraid they will. I have a log in front of the puddle now but they will move it I know. What would you do in a case like this? The neighborhood kids go with me and also want to know what will happen if we don’t intervene but I want to do only what is allowed or what is best for the turtle. Thank you for any advice you can give in this matter." - Karla, Chatsworth, Ga.
Here's Bill's response: "Karla -The turtle is probably a common snapping turtle as alligator snappers don’t range as far north as Chatsworth. Common snappers occur as far north as Canada and are able to take extreme temperatures. These turtles are commonly found in habitats that can best be described as marginal (that is, ones that seem as though they would only be suitable temporarily – like a mud puddle). I suspect that if the puddle dries out or if it becomes very cold (like today!), the turtle will either move somewhere else or bury down into the bottom and wait for more favorable conditions.
He/she is probably not real active this time of year anyway, so it is probably not eating and may not eat again until it warms up.
These turtles are not protected in Georgia, so if you wanted to move it to a nearby location that might be more sheltered from human traffic, then that would probably be ok."
Next time you're at the Tennessee Aquarium, look for a staff member or volunteer whenever you have a question about the creatures or habitats. If you have an animal question after you get home, feel free to "Ask an Expert" online at:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's a Girl! You can help name her.

The Tennessee Aquarium has learned that the gentoo penguin chick, hatched on June 30th, is a girl. As you can see, this juvenile is one BIG bird.
Remember when the Tennessee Aquarium's newest penguin was reluctant to enter the water with the other gentoos and macaronis? Here's a flashback to that first "walk about" inside the exhibit:

Here's senior aviculturist Amy Graves describing this athletic female gentoo:

Now that you know a little bit about her, you can help the Tennessee Aquarium name this water-loving penguin. Just go to: and submit your suggestion. There's a nice 2011 Chattanooga getaway package for the winning name:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hyacinth Macaws Put On A Show

The Tennessee Aquarium's hyacinth macaws will make you smile no matter how many times you are around them. And chilly days like today are perfect times to come visit them. During the Aquarium's Tropical Holiday Adventure, aviculturists give visitors an opportunity to learn more about these amazing birds every day at 1:00 pm. Senior aviculturist Amy Graves gives you a sample of what to expect in this short video:

To learn more about hyacinth macaws in their native habitat, read the online version Riverwatch, the Tennessee Aquarium's magazine for members:

Check out the Tropical Holiday Adventure daily schedule of events:

Become a member through December 16th and get FREE IMAX tickets:

Friday, November 26, 2010

You Can't Gift Wrap a Penguin

You can’t gift-wrap a penguin, but you CAN give family and friends the gift of a year’s worth of fun visiting thousands of amazing animals from around the world.

Aquarium memberships help families reconnect and have fun with unlimited visits. The Tennessee Aquarium’s online gift shop makes holiday gift-giving fun and easy. For those wishing to give an experience, give someone a day out to the Aquarium, IMAX or Tennessee River Gorge Explorer with Tennessee Aquarium gift certificates.

Animal lovers will enjoy some of the fun items in the Aquarium's online gift shop:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

George Bartnik, the Aquarium's education programs manager, shares this seasonal riddle:

Q: What do you get when you measure the ratio of a jack-o-lantern’s circumference to its diameter?

A: Pumpkin pi

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! The Tennessee Aquarium will be closed for the holiday today, but re-open tomorrow so everyone can enjoy a Tropical Holiday Adventure. See you then!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Feast fit for the Beasts at the Tennessee Aquarium

Thanksgiving isn’t the only day for our animals to enjoy haute cuisine. Volunteer chefs help serve up a daily feast fit for a king snake, queen angelfish, octopus, shark, and alligator - in fact, all of the animals that call the Tennessee Aquarium home.

Superior animal husbandry calls for daily monitoring and careful menu planning to achieve the most nutritious and enriching diet for every creature. The husbandry department and volunteer chefs spend long hours preparing diets for the animals in each exhibit.

Over 22 tons of restaurant quality seafood is consumed at our facility each year, not to mention the substantial poundage of fruits, vegetables, mice, worms and other food supplements.

Think you’ve had quite a chore shopping for your Thanksgiving feast? Here’s a partial look at the Aquarium’s annual grocery list:

832,000 meal worms for birds
5,616 heads of romaine lettuce for turtles and fish
5,184 pounds of squid for sharks, green moray eels and other fish
40,000 crickets for frogs, salamanders and newts
10,800 pounds of capelin fish for penguins
3,000 night crawlers for turtles and amphibians
2,000 pounds of shrimp for cuttlefish
681 pounds of grapes for macaws
1,056 oranges for butterflies
4,697 mice and rats for reptiles
200 pounds of macadamia nuts for macaws

We’re thankful for all of our volunteers who help prepare food and feed our animals throughout the year.

Want to learn more about animal care and help feed some of the Aquarium’s animals? Add a Backstage Pass to your next visit and go behind-the-scenes:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bald Eagle Sightings in the Gorge

Photos taken by River Gorge Explorer deckhand Ron Smith.
Tennessee Aquarium naturalist John Dever had a great time aboard the River Gorge Explorer recently. Passengers were treated to excellent bald eagle viewing on Sunday.
Here's some of the information John shared with everyone aboard that cruise: "This pair of bald eagles has been nesting in the area for about five years now. The nest has been a successful one with one to two chicks raised each of the past three summers. They are one of around 140 nesting pairs across the state where they are supported by the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers in the eastern and western parts of the state. Because of the overuse of DDT, Tennessee recorded no nesting pairs between 1961 and 1983. Their recovery and reintroduction is a great conservation story in Tennessee."
Thanks for the update and pictures John!

Monday, November 15, 2010

American Trails Symposium in Chattanooga

There is something therapeutic about hiking. Whether you lace up your boots for a group outing with friends or enjoy a walk in the woods alone, time spent out in nature is good for the mind and body. I have enjoyed briskly stepping out along a trail in the pre-dawn darkness with a headlamp to light the way. Or returning in the same fashion after watching the sun setting over the Tennessee River Gorge. Sometimes in sweltering heat, other times in the cool air of spring or fall and occasionally in the sharp cold after a snowfall hoping to be the first boot prints on the trail. We're fortunate to live in an area that offers trails for all levels of hiker. Some can take you to scenic waterfalls, others lead to the solitude many yearn for.

Chattanooga is the site for the 20th American Trails National Symposium November 14th to 17th. The Symposium is billed as an opportunity to network with the nationwide trails community and learn state of the art trail planning, development, and management techniques.

For complete program details go to:
The public is invited to hear Dayton Duncan, the writer and co-producer of National Parks : America’s Best Idea. Dayton has been involved for many years with the work of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. He will address the National Trails Conference on Wednesday Nov 17th at the closing luncheon from 12:15 – 2:00: “Celebrating our Public Lands : A Legacy for our Future. “

Learn more about Dayton Duncan and register for this event at:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The doctor will see you now.

Inside the waiting room.
"The doctor will see you now."

No sucker for being good. Penguins prefer a smelt treat after seeing the doctor.
It's time for the Tennessee Aquarium's penguins to get their semi-annual physicals. This process is occurring in two separate groups to make the process easier on the birds and the keepers. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed, when you go to see the doctor, you go from the big waiting room to the little waiting room. Same thing at "Penguins' Rock." Several of the macaroni penguins and the Aquarium's youngest gentoo waddled off exhibit and into a backup room to wait for veterinarian Dr. Chris Keller. One at a time they were brought into the "smaller waiting room" to be weighed, closely examined and have a blood sample taken. "We draw blood twice a year for general physiological parameters," said Dr. Keller. "Which means how they're doing inside. Also, we want to make sure they aren't harboring a certain fungal disease that penguins are susceptible to, making sure these guys are good and healthy as they have always been."
Throughout the year, Dr. Keller makes routine check-ups on the penguins - especially when they are molting, laying eggs and raising chicks. This most recent exam was exciting, because the blood test from the juvenile gentoo chick will yield some news. "We send the blood sample to a lab to look for the male or female chromosomes," said Dr. Keller. "Within a matter of weeks we should know the gender."
Last year, aviculturists were leaning toward the macaroni chick being a male. Dr. Keller thought it was a female. When the blood test came back, it was a female and a naming contest crowned the feisty little bird "Pepper."
This year, there's a split forecast. Senior aviculturist Amy Graves and assistant curator of forests Kevin Calhoon think the gentoo is a female. Aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich and Dr. Keller believes it's a male.
What do you think? We'll soon find out!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Heron and the Kingfisher

Fall color is now past peak, although there is still some autumn hues decorating the mountains along the River Gorge Explorer's route within the Tennessee River Gorge. Naturalist John Dever says birdwatching has been excellent recently with increased sightings of two native species. "Reservoir levels are low right now and with the increased bank exposure, we're seeing a lot of great blue heron and belted kingfisher activity. This duo provides an interesting contrast along the shoreline areas. Tall and angular with a five-foot wingspan and razor sharp bill, the Heron intently waits in the shallows for prey to swim into the strike zone before taking flight in slow measured transitions. The kingfisher, on the other hand, is atomic energy personified. Typically perched on a snag just a few feet above the surface and rarely flying more than twenty feet above the water, the kingfisher flies with a dipping, frantic flight path and a call which could be described as a "racket." In flight the kingfisher can change direction on a dime and hit the water with complete abandon, headfirst...smack; often taking a fish that seems a little too large to swallow. No problem.

While the heron nests in the loftiest of trees in large colonial groups on our river islands, the kingfisher actually digs a tunnel into the bank and hollows out a comfy hole filled with fish bones.

So check em out!"

Friday, November 5, 2010

AscenDance descends on Chattanooga.

The AscenDance Project thrilled the crowd that gathered in Coolidge Park during the RiverRocks Festival in October. A tremendous amount of strength and precision goes into every performance, and that's evident to anyone who has seen them on television, or especially in person.
AscenDance Project performing at RiverRocks Festival in Chattanooga's Coolidge Park. Photo courtesy of Tom and Pat Cory Photography. Performers shown: Isabel von Rittberg--bottom, Martha Hazel--upper left, Ryan Gaunt--upper right.

Ryan Gaunt, of the AscenDance Project, horsing around in the Tennessee Aquarium's Seahorse Gallery pop-up tank.
Ryan and Isabel had some time after their performance to enjoy all that Chattanooga has to offer. Here's what Ryan had to share with everyone after their visit to the Tennessee Aquarium:
"Isabel and I were recently in Chattanooga for a performance at the 1st annual River Rocks Festival. Having grown up in North Carolina, I was excited about heading back to the Southeast for large deciduous forests, humidity, sandstone climbing and some good southern hospitality. While there, we were invited to take a tour of the aquarium. We had been told about the penguin exhibit, but weren’t prepared for what was housed in the two buildings with glass pyramidal tops. Before you head up the escalators of the first building, “the River Journey,” first head downstairs for the special exhibit, which on this occasion, was of seahorse/sea dragons. I was blown away. The seahorses were awesome, but I had never seen a sea dragon before, and the leafy and weedy sea dragon quickly became my favorite creatures and I hadn’t even begun the full tour yet. What lay in store for us on the rest of the tour throughout the two buildings was an amazing experience and chance to see life that teems in a world that few people get to see in nature. Interactive exhibits, a butterfly garden, and aquariums that kids (and dexterous adults) can crawl into the middle of all provide a memorable experience. With the additional options of an IMAX 3D theater and River Gorge exploration, the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is a must do for a whole day or even just a quick visit." - Ryan Gaunt, AscenDance Project, Berkeley, Ca.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Weird Aquatic Creatures in the Tennessee River?

The Tennessee Aquarium recently received this e-mail concerning the odd mass that appeared to be attempting to overtake their lake home's deck. "Can anyone tell me what this is? It was attached to a ladder on my deck. I live on the Tennessee River."

Dr. Anna George, the director of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, explains that this is not just one "creature from the deep," it is a bunch of "creatures from the deep." Here is her reply: "I received your web inquiry about the photo. Believe it or not, that’s actually a colony of invertebrate animals in the group Bryozoa (also called moss animals). Each of those “bubbles” is made up of small animals that live together. Though they aren’t very attractive, they actually help clean water quality while they filter out their food."

For more information on bryozoans, see:

Sometimes bizarre-looking creatures turn out to be beneficial.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Drought Impacts Conservation Work

Barrens Topminnow Rescue October 19, 2010:
As you can see in the picture above, this year’s drought has been pretty devastating. On Tuesday, Oct. 19, biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute rescued roughly 750 Barrens topminnows from a nearly dry spring. We are currently holding them at the Aquarium's Animal Care Facility until the spring has a chance to return to the normal water level. Which may take some time given the slim chances for meaningful rain in the near future.

The picture below is what the spring normally looks like. It is a night and day comparison.

This unique fish is limited to 22 small spring seeps across 3 counties in east-central Tennessee. The Barrens topminnow has become threatened by introductions of invasive mosquitofish, which out-compete and harass juvenile topminnows.
Learn more about this conservation effort to save this endangered species by watching this video:

We are working with the following organizations to propagate juvenile fishes for recovery efforts. Aquarist Matt Hamilton leads the propagation effort for the Tennessee Aquarium and TNACI. Other partners include:

Conservation Fisheries, Inc.
Tennessee Technological University
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blue Skies, Cooler Weather and Fall Fun

Does anyone else find it hard to believe that November is already here? It's beginning to feel a bit more like fall with cooler temperatures forecast for the Chattanooga area by the upcoming weekend.

Fall color is at peak right now, but naturalist John Dever estimates foliage and wildlife viewing should continue to be strong for another couple of weeks. Here's his fall color update from aboard the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer.

"There is still a whole lot of green out there, leaves are still turning and probably still over 50% attached. In the sky we are seeing plenty of hawks, vultures and increased presence of our local Bald Eagles at Brown's Ferry. Overall it was a great week with sunny and clear skies, moderate winds and temperature and great daytime looks at the moon."

If you haven't been out this year, make plans today to enjoy nature from aboard the Explorer.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peppy Penguin Now LOVES to Swim

Yesterday the Tennessee Aquarium's youngest gentoo was really putting on a show. This juvenile penguin was racing all over the exhibit displaying that amazing ability to reverse direction at blazing speeds. Take a look:

This isn't unusual for penguins. Visit the Tennessee Aquarium at the right time and you might see several of the gentoo or macaroni penguins racing each other. But it does seem unusual that the baby penguin that refused to go in the water for such a long time is now hard to get OUT of the water. Remember this video?

We still don't know if this juvenile bird is a male or female yet. All of the Aquarium's penguins will get physicals soon. That will be the first time a blood sample will be drawn from the newest gentoo at Penguins' Rock. A DNA sample will be sent to a lab and that's when we'll learn whether this amazing swimmer is a boy or a girl. That's also when the Tennessee Aquarium will begin another penguin naming contest. (More details ahead here, The Tennessee Aquarium's website, Facebook and on Twitter.)

Last year's chick was named "Pepper," which suited that macaroni penguin's feisty personality. After viewing the top video, maybe "Pepe" or "Peppy" would be good names. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Color Update from the River Gorge Explorer 10.27.10

This has certainly been an unusually hot and dry autumn so far, but recent rounds of severe thunderstorms have turned our short-term dry conditions around. Yesterday, the River Gorge Explorer returned to the Chattanooga Pier as ominous clouds were moving into the downtown area. Our thoughts go out to those who suffered damage from the tornado that touched down at the Chickamauga Dam about 10 miles upstream from the Tennessee Aquarium.

Many people don't realize that southeast Tennessee has a secondary severe weather season in early November. Most of our severe weather occurs in the spring, but the atmospheric ingredients come together in just the right fashion this time of year as the air masses collide with the transition to autumn. You can keep track of current weather conditions in Chattanooga with a real-time, high-definition webcam here:

Before the storms, we enjoyed the fall colors in the Gorge. Our timing for the cruise worked out well as we missed showers that occurred early in the afternoon and missed the severe weather later last evening. Aquarium naturalist John Dever supplied us with the images above and says the recent rains seem to have brought out some of the autumn hues. Here's his weekly fall color and wildlife update: "The rains came and the fall color really seemed to perk up, from a dull dry crispy appearance on Sunday to a fresh, new sharpness. The evergreens of places like the Dividing Hollow (seen above showing eastern hemlock), and Palisades (Virginia pine), are coming into stark relief against the colorful surrounding forest. Much of the forest is still green, especially the water oaks along the river, so there is more color to come. The Williams Island area has been hosting some great egrets and a more consistent presence of our Brown's Ferry Eagles (pictured above). A couple of young osprey are still fishing the Gorge and our crows and vultures are also present in big numbers."

With prime autumn weather conditions forecast for the next several days, now might be a great time to enjoy the scenery and a relaxing trip into "Tennessee's Grand Canyon."

Check out schedule for Awesome Autumn Fall Leaf Cruises aboard the River Gorge Explorer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall Color Update from Aboard the River Gorge Explorer

October temperatures have been bouncing up and down quite a bit lately, from a record high near 90 one week ago, to overnight lows dipping down into the upper 30s in some areas this past weekend. Dry conditions have caused some trees to lose their leaves a bit earlier than normal and a few brush fires have occurred in the region. In spite of the generally hot, dry conditions, there's still quite a bit of color to be enjoyed.

Want to look in on the weather before a cruise? Thanks to a support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Tennessee Aquarium has added a new weather station atop the IMAX 3D Theater. Check the current weather conditions and a real-time HD camera view of downtown Chattanooga.

Tennessee Aquarium naturalist John Dever has seen a noticeable increase in fall color from aboard the River Gorge Explorer this week as well as some interesting bird sightings. "There is a higher percentage of color this week. The foliage is now at around 40% of peak. We've been seeing some teals, great egrets and bald eagles in the Gorge. And, we still have been seeing some osprey activity, at least for now."

Looks like we may see some showers tonight and tomorrow, then some more fantastic fall weather is ahead. Check the schedule for Awesome Autumn Fall Leaf Cruises aboard the River Gorge Explorer to enjoy the weather and the view in "Tennessee's Grand Canyon."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

River Gorge Explorer Fall Color Update

Even though the area could use some rain, we have been enjoying the outstanding weather conditions lately. Warm, sunny days and cool nights are helping to set the color in the area's changing leaves. As usual, the higher elevations surrounding Chattanooga have more advanced color than valley locations. But as Tennessee Aquarium naturalist John Dever reports, the reds of autumn can be seen down to the river's edge from aboard the River Gorge Explorer. "The leaves are now turning color in the 20% range with maple red, hickory yellow and four colored sweet gum, especially along the shoreline," Dever said. Along with the increase in color, there has also been an increase in wildlife sightings. "We've been seeing Bald Eagles with greater frequency over the past several days and the Osprey are still in the Gorge as least for a little while longer. Other sightings include deer, the northern flicker, many mallards and even some green winged teals."

Friday, October 8, 2010

RiverRocks Finale This Weekend in Coolidge Park

The ten-day RiverRocks festival wraps up in Chattanooga this weekend with a bang. In addition to the numerous outdoor activities, this grand finale includes a lot of FREE entertainment.

Friday night you can check out Circus Juventas at 7:00 pm at Coolidge Park. Here's a sample of these amazing performers in action:

Saturday at 7:00 pm the AscenDance Project will thrill the crowd at Coolidge Park. Fans of NBC's "America's Got Talent" already know about AscenDance. If you missed it, the crowd went wild over their performance:

Chattanooga will also get a special musical treat Saturday night at 8:00 pm when Fitz and the Tantrums rev it up in Coolidge Park. This group has a fun sound that will have everyone ready to dance:

This will be followed by a special light show designed specifically for RiverRocks. The "Circle of Light Finale" is scheduled to set Coolidge Park aglow at 9:30 pm.

A quick reminder: The Adventure Film Festival at IMAX runs through Thursday, October 14th. Extend your RiverRocks fun by taking advantage of this special offer: Five IMAX films for just $20!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tennessee River Gorge Fall Color Update

There's always a lot of interest in fall color updates in the Chattanooga area, so Tennessee Aquarium naturalist John Dever will be assisting leaf peepers with reports from aboard the Tennessee River Gorge Explorer. According to Dever, hints of color are on schedule, there are some interesting bird sightings and one environmental concern. Here's his first update for the week of October 4th, 2010.
"As of Sunday, October 3rd, we are still around 5% in terms of color, with tulip poplars showing a little yellow. Some maples are in red, but mostly at the higher elevations and oriented along north facing slopes. Migrant bird species visible along the river include the double crested cormorant and great egret. Hawks species like the broad-winged have been spotted in large numbers while our summer Osprey will be leaving the area through the end of the month. In the woods, the smaller bird species such as warblers, thrushes, grosbeaks etc., have been moving along the Cumberland Plateau flyway. Unfortunately, as reported in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Wooly Adelgid has been spotted in Chickamauga, GA and the spectacular hemlock stands of the River Gorge will soon be in jeopardy as well. Hemlock education and awareness is a must!"

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Celebration of Life!

The Scenic City Survivors recently held their calendar unveiling party in the IMAX garden. This is the sixth annual A Celebration of Life! calendar produced to support the MaryEllen Locher Foundation.

This amazing calendar project has raised more than $75,000. As a result, the MaryEllen Locher Foundation has provided college scholarships for children who have a parent affected by breast cancer. The Scenic City Survivors say this unique scholarship fund helps lift the financial and emotional burdens faced by the growing number of children affected by breast cancer in our country.

More than 140 local breast cancer survivors have been featured in the calendar since its inception in 2005.

The spirit of this group can be felt while reading the survivor quotes in the calendar. Their messages of love, support and gratitude are inspirational.

Their secondary message is, "Attitude is Everything." Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please consider supporting this organization by purchasing one of these calendars or making a contribution to the MaryEllen Locher Foundation. To lift the spirits of breast cancer survivors during October, send a 40 character message of hope and inspiration to those affected by breast cancer via Twitter to @TNAquarium, or post a message of support on the Tennessee Aquarium's Facebook page.

The Tennessee Aquarium was honored to be this year's A Celebration of Life calendar location.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sean Casey's Tornado Intercept Vehicle Vists IMAX

Sean Casey had a lot of fun meeting fans at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater yesterday.

The Discovery Channel star of "Storm Chasers" brought his Tornado Intercept Vehicle, TIV, to Chattanooga for the Giant Screen Cinema Association's annual conference. Sean was promoting his new film, "Tornado Alley."
Casey joined researchers from the VORTEX 2 project, the most ambitious effort ever made to understand the origins and evolution of tornadoes, during the filming of "Tornado Alley." Casey spent eight years chasing storms to capture what may be some of the most stunning tornado footage ever seen.

One future tornado researcher (Seen above.) traveled a LONG WAY to meet Sean and see the TIV. Jack Jester celebrated his ninth birthday by going for a ride around downtown Chattanooga in the TIV. His mother drove from Peoria, Illinois to make sure he had an unforgettable birthday.

The TIV sure looked strange travelling the streets near the Tennessee Aquarium. Casey says what was once a Dodge truck was stripped down to the chassis and engine to create a nearly tornado proof SUV. "Obviously there are limits," said Casey. "An F-5 tornado can sweep a building off it's foundation. But the TIV has several layers of Kevlar, aluminum and steel to protect us while we are filming inside a tornado. The body rests on air bags which deflate to lower the body near the ground. And the vehicle also has skirts with poles that we can drive into the ground with hydraulics to keep wind from getting under the vehicle."

Many fans were captivated by his storm chasing stories and are already excited about the release of Tornado Alley in the Spring of 2011.

Thanks Sean and the Tornado Alley production team from Giant Screen Films for bringing this exciting whirlwind tour to the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater.