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.