Highlights of the Sealife Center

Highlights of the Sealife Center

Your first impres­sion of the Alas­ka SeaL­ife Cen­ter — a sprawl­ing, $56 mil­lion facil­i­ty built as part of the set­tle­ment of 1989’s Exxon Valdez oil spill — will be a dra­mat­ic one. The facil­i­ty sits on sev­en water­front acres along the shores of Res­ur­rec­tion Bay, and the glass walls behind the tick­et­ing booth allow light to pour in. 

As you enter the Rocky Coast Gallery, you’ll see the Dis­cov­ery Touch Pools, bet­ter known as the Touch Tank, on your right. These tanks are open so you can touch any of the crea­tures inside, which include anemones, sea cucum­bers, sea stars, and her­mit crabs that can be found in the ocean all around Alaska. 

North Amer­i­ca’s deep­est seabird div­ing habi­tat (21‑½ feet deep) is home to ten dif­fer­ent species of seabirds — eight of which dive under the water — and you’ll get clos­er to these birds than you ever could in the wild. Here you’ll find King Eiders, Long-tail Ducks, Black Oys­ter­catch­ers, Com­mon Mur­res, Tuft­ed Puffins, Pigeon Guille­mots, Horned Puffins, Har­le­quin ducks, Rhi­noc­er­os Auk­lets, and Red-legged Kittiwakes. 

You’ll find four har­bor seals here: Snap­per, Attun, Ton­gas, and Kordelia. Snap­per was born in Mys­tic in 1984 and arrived at the Cen­ter in 1998; hav­ing par­tic­i­pat­ed in a num­ber of research stud­ies, he’s now retired” and likes to swim laps. Ton­gas, born in 2007, is Snap­per’s son; his moth­er, Chloe, was vis­it­ing from the Anchor­age Zoo. 

You’ll only find these beau­ti­ful crea­tures at three oth­er facil­i­ties in all of North Amer­i­ca — the Mys­tic Aquar­i­um in Con­necti­cut, the Ore­gon Zoo, and the Van­cou­ver Aquar­i­um. Two of the Steller sea lions here, Woody and Sug­ar, have called the Cen­ter home since it opened in 1998. They came from Van­cou­ver and are named for Steller sea lion rook­eries (breed­ing grounds) in that area: Woody is short for Wood­ed Island, and Sug­ar for Sug­ar­loaf Island.  ...more

Alas­ka has five species of salmon and we all know that they fight valiant­ly to swim upstream from the ocean, even scal­ing water­falls to repro­duce at the very stream where they were hatched. But what about their jour­ney down­stream? Don’t they face the same dan­gers? This exhib­it traces the life of salmon, start­ing as eggs. 

Behind the touch tank you can look out onto the Alas­ka SeaL­ife Center’s Obser­va­tion Over­look, and see what the researchers are up to. 

This is the Cen­ter’s newest exhib­it, focused on the reha­bil­i­ta­tion of sea otter pups. Under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, moth­er sea otters give their pups 24-hour care for the first six months of their lives, then stay with them for at least one year. When a pup is found strand­ed and con­firmed that its moth­er isn’t return­ing, the Cen­ter brings it in. 

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  ...more

These hour long tours get you with the Ani­mal Care staff and up close to our res­i­dent ani­mals! This great expe­ri­ence is offered twice a day dur­ing sum­mer and once a day dur­ing win­ter. Con­tact the front desk for more infor­ma­tion and availability.