Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gibson Goes Home to Nashville

We say a fond farewell to Gibson, the giant guitarfish, who came to Chattanooga after the devastating floods in Nashville, Tennessee. (Read about how he got here: ) The star of the Nashville Aquarium Restaurant at the Opry Mills Mall headed home after more than three months away from the Music City.
Gibson received the royal treatment while Tennessee Aquarium staff cared for him. Apparently the accommodations and buffet were quite suitable at the Aquarium's Animal Care Facility. Senior aquarist Rob Mottice said Gibson grew a surprising amount while in Chattanooga. "When we transported Gibson from Nashville to here, he fit inside our transport box just fine," said Mottice. "But when we loaded him to go back home, it was like 'Whoa!,' he had to curl his tail a bit to fit in the same container. It was amazing!" Mottice estimates Gibson grew six to ten inches while in Chattanooga.

So how do you move a giant guitarfish? First you slowly drop the water level in the holding tank.

Then you get a couple of strong aquarists like Pete Larson and Ben Stenger to join Gibson in the big holding tank.

Next, a transport stretcher is laid out on the bottom of the tank. The material is soft enough for large animals like sharks, rays and guitarfish. One end is elevated so the stretcher becomes a ramp. The animal swims in, the sides fold over the animal, then up and out he goes.

Gibson seemed to know he was heading home. The process couldn't have gone more smoothly. The drive up I-24 was also uneventful and today Gibson is happy at home.

In fact, this magnificent guitarfish realized he was home almost immediately. "As soon as we put him in the tank, he went down to the bottom to relax for about five minutes," said Mottice. "Shortly after that, he started swimming around perfectly, navigating around all of the coral formations. And he quickly found his two favorite spots, where I've been told he likes to sit during the course of the day. We were real pleased to see that."
Our hearts go out to those still working to make things better than ever in Nashville. We think Gibson's return is one more sign that life is almost back to normal there.

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