We began our second to last day by leaving La Quinta Inn at 9:30 AM and heading towards the Tennessee Aquarium on Interstate 75.  A short van ride later we arrived and excitedly entered the “River Journey” half of the aquarium. Our river journey began with an exhibit entitled Seahorses: Beyond Imagination, which turned out to be one of my favorite exhibits in the aquarium.  As we explored tanks with different species of seahorses, we learned all about their characteristics of prehensile (grasping) tails, rigid bodies, camouflage, independently rotating eyes, and male pregnancy.  As we continued through the exhibit, we were suddenly brought upon some strange seaweed-looking seahorses, the “seadragons.”  I had no idea that creatures like these existed, but apparently they do, in the eastern Indian and southern Pacific Oceans around Australia.
 

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The Tennessee Aquarium.  The River Journey building is on the left, and the smaller Ocean Journey building is on the right.
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A leafy seadragon.
 

 After that exciting exhibit, we continued (now in smaller groups) on to the next level of our river journey at the headwaters.  As we made our way to the top of the aquarium, we were suddenly transitioned from bare aquarium hallways to an imitation forest complete with waterfall, river, and animals. The main attraction in this section was a pair of adorable river otters swimming quickly around and around, and even posing for a few seconds on an exposed rock. It seemed like there was always a crowd of people watching these playful otters.
 

We continued to slowly travel through the rest of the aquarium, taking in information as we passed by multi-storied fish tanks, a sturgeon touch tank, an imitation swamp, exhibits on the main rivers of the world, and an exhibit on turtles, which was another one of my favorite exhibits. We learned about how there are approximately 260 species of turtles and tortoises in the world today, about their different habitats and how most turtles spend their entire lives within a small area called a “home range,” about their different shells and patterns, and even about their necks and how most turtles can retract their head entirely into their shell by bending the neck in an S-shape. Similar to the seahorse exhibit, we also saw some strange-looking turtles called giant side-necked turtles, named for their extremely long necks.
 

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A giant side-necked turtle.
 

Soon after the turtle exhibit, we had reached the end of our river journey and it was time for lunch. Most of us, if not all of us, ended up eating lunch at Mellow Mushrooms Pizza Bakery down the block from the aquarium, and it turned out to be a very tasty lunch. After lunch, we had approximately an hour left out of our original four hours to explore the “Ocean Journey” half of the aquarium, so consequently we rushed through these exhibits more than before.  The main exhibits on the ocean journey were a tropical cove, a butterfly garden, a penguin exhibit, and an undersea cavern.  All of these exhibits were a lot of fun, but my favorite by far was the undersea cavern.  It was so calming and beautiful walking through the cavern and being surrounded by water, coral reefs, fish, and music. I wish I could have stayed there longer. 

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A butterfly in the butterfly garden.
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Looking up in the undersea cavern.

Nonetheless, it was definitely time to continue or journey north towards home. So shortly after 2:00 PM, we were back in the vans and driving for the rest of the day until we reached our final hotel destination at the Best Western in Wytheville, Virginia. After a good nights rest, we will finally be on the last leg of our journey home!  group.jpg 

  Luce students and faculty at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Maunette Watson