Thursday, March 25, 2010

Georgia Aquarium Planet Shark Tour in Atlanta, GA

The Georgia Aquarium and the Planet Shark exhibit are a must see if you're visiting Atlanta, GA. With the exception of the giant fish-shaped "G" that's visible from a distance in downtown Atlanta, The Georgia Aquarium is rather unremarkable in its exterior design, but the interior more than makes up for it, as well as the story of how it came to be.

Now, what's this blogger doing at The Georgia Aquarium? Simple. Atlanta, Georgia has become a second home because my mother lives their and one of the obligations of being an only child is going back to keep my widowed mother company and give help around the house. Given the time spent in Atlanta, getting involved in the local culture was logical.

An internet marketer working with the Georgia Aquarium happened to issue a tweet from the Georgia Aquarium twitter account that a "Planet Shark blogger day" was to be held. I happened to see the tweet, signed up and asked permission to use my camcorder to make the video blog that's part of this blog entry.

Frankly, the Georgia Aquarium Planet Shark Tour video was coming out to be rather boring until Hanna literally happened by, but I'll get to that in a moment.

The experience started with a host in the video who at first didn't seem familiar with the idea of being video-blogger. The gentleman was trying to talk around the camcorder rather than to it. But after he realized it was a serious production, the host explained that The Georgia Aquarium was started via a $250 million investment by Atlanta resident Bernie Marcus, who established the Home Depot store chain.

The Georgia Aquarium is the World's largest with over 8.1 million gallons of water, and a perfect example of how well-heeled residents of The South have literally spent cities like Atlanta and Dallas into World-class status. With Dallas, it was the totally-privately-financed Dallas Arts District and the Dallas Symphony Hall at its center. With Atlanta, it was the creation of CNN by Ted Turner, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and now the Georgia Aquarium.

The Georgia Aquarium's promoting Planet Shark, a special exhibit built by Shark expert Rodney Fox. While you can read more about it at its website, what was interesting was the use of giant "website-like" display panels to show shark physiology. The best information was on how few humans were killed by sharks versus the large number of sharks killed by people - no word about the famous shark attacks on the crew of the USS Indianapolis. The overall set of displays, designed to combat the idea that sharks are dangerous man-eating monsters, is effective and entertaining.

Video use was restricted to a degree, so that curtained much of the story I wanted to tell, until I met Hanna.

Hanna's a volunteer tour guide at The Georgia Aquarium who was waiting for an elevator as I was leaving. I happened to ask her how much time I had until closing and she told me. Frankly, her voice was so clear and perfect for a video I asked her if I could film her and she agreed. The result was what one of my constant video watchers Alan Molsted called one of the best videos I've ever done.

Hanna led a journey into a must see part of The Georgia Aquarium: the tube-like glased-in walkway that travels through a 6.3 million water tank. During our tour we saw divers above us who, Hanna informed, were "our visitors." One can pay between $200 and $300 to be part of a guided scuba dive tour and swim with, but not touch, the whale sharks. All one has to do is visit the Georgia Aquarium website and sign up.

Our tour ended at another giant water tank that's visible via an equally giant glass wall that must be two-stories high. As the video shows, its a breath-taking site. It would have been unseen here were it not for Hanna. Moreover, whoever's in charge of marketing for The Georgia Aquarium should make Hanna the paid star of a video tour series. She's that good on camera. Additionally, there should be a blogger day for the whole facility, not just Planet Shark.

In closing, the Georgia Aquarium's an incredible place to visit, either alone, with friends, or especially with kids, who just get pure joy out of the experience. Most of the visitors were families with young children, and all well-behaved and having fun.

Check it out.