Underwater Viewing

Here you'll find the bottom half of the three largest exhibits: the seabird aviary; the Steller sea lion habitat; and the harbor seal habitat. Explore the "Harbor Bottom," where wolf-eels (really a fish, not an eel) lie still in abandoned pipes waiting for their next meal. Venture into the "Deep Gulf" to discover how halibut hide in the sandy bottom, and see the Pacific cod swimming in a group searching for food. And keep an eye out for the strange-looking giant wrymouth hiding in his den.

Watch from beneath the surface as the seabirds dive to catch small fish like silversides, capelin, sand eels, and herring, or munch on roe from salmon, cod, or pollock. The bubbles streaming out from behind the birds as they dive isn't their breath; it's air trapped by their down feathers, which insulates their bodies from the cold water. When the birds return to the surface they will spend most of their time preening. This not only keeps their feathers clean, but spreads the natural oil on their feathers evenly to prevent water from soaking into them.

You'll also see numerous species of rockfish float idly by, along with Pacific cod. If you look closely you'll see that one of the black rockfish is missing an eye—it was surgically removed after a run-in with one of the tufted puffins. And don't miss the wolf-eel's den in the lower right hand corner. Stand by the small window and look down into the left corner at the bottom of the pillar—you'll see a pile of rocks that serves as a den for this strange fish that looks like an eel.

In the Steller sea lion exhibit, watch these creatures perform their underwater ballet. The females twirl around each other, propelling themselves with their large front flippers. Pilot slowly cruises by with a lazy flick of his flippers, rolling an eye towards the glass as if to ask, "Have you ever seen anything as majestic as me?" A rapidly growing male in the breeding program, he is certainly an impressive sight. (And to learn more about the Steller sea lions here at the Center, ask about the free public lectures in the Research Theater, given every hour throughout the summer.)

In between the Steller sea lion and the harbor seal habitats, check out the Denizens of the Deep exhibit. You'll see what is considered to be the smartest of all the invertebrates and the largest member of its kind in the ocean, the giant Pacific octopus. The octopus is a master of disguise, with the ability to change its skin color to match almost any surface, so look carefully!

Not to be outdone, the harbor seals cut through the water like flexible torpedoes. They're definitely built for life in the water; watching them move on dry land is always a humorous sight. Feeding times vary, so listen for announcements about upcoming feedings for all our animals and to find the best view.

As you exit Underwater Viewing, pass through the "Arctic Theater." This program highlights various arctic issues and serves as an interactive display forum through the use of cinematography. It's also a great place to learn about some of the amazing animals found throughout Alaska while getting off of your feet.

And stop for a snack at the Haul-Out Café, open until 3 p.m. every day and serving light breakfast and lunch options, along with snack and beverages.

Then keep up with Center on Facebook (search for "Alaska SeaLife Center") and Twitter (@AlaskaSeaLife).

Getting There