6 Abandoned Aquariums


Aquarium visits are a staple of many a childhood, and most of us can remember at least one day spent with our faces pressed up against the cool glass, marveling at the brightly colored fish swimming through the waters. A trip to the aquarium is often one of the earliest exposures children have to marine science—not to mention the joys (and horrors) of school field trips.

Perhaps the association with childhood is one of the things that makes aquariums feel so forlorn when things go wrong. The mold and decay contrasts with the cheerful colors of the peeling paint, and it’s easy to imagine the laughter of ghostly schoolchildren echoing down the hall. Here are six abandoned aquariums from around the world.

1. Coral Island Marine Park // Bahamas 

When it opened in 1987, the Coral Island Marine Park in the Bahamas drew throngs of tourists to its marine museum, underwater observatory, shark pools, snorkel trails, and secluded "villa hotel." But when Hurricane Floyd swept through in 1999, it caused massive damage, and the marine park was closed. Today the park’s ruins still sit against the turquoise waters of the Bahamas, but they’ve mostly been forgotten—tour guides sometimes claim the observatory is an old lighthouse or research station.

2. Old Cleveland Aquarium 

The original Cleveland Aquarium opened in February 1956 on the site of an old bathhouse and trailside museum. The building was converted by a group of volunteer tropical fish enthusiasts working under the auspices of the Cleveland Aquarium Society. (Their adorable motto: "Fish, Fun, Friends.”) The attraction featured 50 freshwater and marine exhibits, including swordfish, octopus, and corals, as well as rarer species such as Australian lungfish and red-bellied piranhas. A new wing added in 1967 tripled the aquarium's size. Yet despite drawing crowds, the aquarium suffered from financial and structural problems. It closed in 1985 and became a K-9 training facility for the Cleveland Police Department. Cleveland didn’t get a new aquarium until 2012.

3. Atlantis Marine Park // Two Rocks, Australia 

The Atlantis Marine Park in Two Rocks, Australia, about an hour north of Perth, opened to great fanfare in 1981. Hundreds of thousands of visitors came to watch the trained bottlenose dolphins, swim in the pools, ride the pedal boats, and marvel at the giant limestone sculpture of a jolly-looking King Neptune. The park was a major feature of Australian businessman Alan Bond's ambitious Yanchep Sun City, in which he planned to turn an old sheep station into a massive resort. Bond had big dreams for Atlantis, but financial issues forced the park to shut down after only nine years. (As it happens, Bond was jailed in 1997 for one of Australia’s biggest cases of corporate fraud; he died earlier this month.) Today the ruins are a popular spot for dog walkers. Local crayfishermen say they sometimes spot the park’s dolphins off the marina.

4. Sea-Arama Marineworld // Texas 

The 25-acre Sea-Arama Marineworld once boasted dolphin shows, a ski lake, a 50-foot aquarium, and men wrestling alligators. When it opened in 1965, it was one of the first ocean theme parks in the nation. But after the flashier and much larger SeaWorld opened in San Antonio in 1988, the crowds dwindled, and the owners were loathe to put money toward much-needed revitalization. The park closed in 1990 and fell into ruin, becoming a haven not for sea life but for local teens and graffiti artists. It was finally demolished in 2006. 

5. Saikaibashi Public Aquarium // Japan

It's tough to find detailed information in English on the Saikaibashi Public Aquarium, but a directory of museums in Japan says it was open by 1960, and urban explorers who have visited the ruins say it had fallen into decay by the mid-1990s. The two-floor museum wasn't known for extravagance, but did boast several dolphin shows each day. Today, the elements have taken their toll, leading to rust, dust, and cracks, and many of the structures are in danger of collapse. Watch out for dolphin ghosts. 

6. Lalbagh Gardens // Bangalore, India 

The centuries-old Lalbagh gardens in Bangalore, India, once included a glasshouse modeled on London's Crystal Palace (built in 1889 to commemorate a visit from the prince of Wales), as well as a popular bandstand, menagerie, tropical garden, and aquarium. Edward Lear once called it "the Kew of India." These days, travelers say it's more of a public park than a garden, and the abandoned aquarium building is a decrepit shell of its former self.

Bonus: the abandoned shopping mall that became an aquarium 

The New World shopping mall in Bangkok, built in 1982, went up in flames due to suspected arson in 1997, after which it was abandoned. Without a roof, the basement remained under water year-round. At some point in the early 2000s, a resident (his or her identity is unclear) began introducing koi, catfish, and tilapia into the water, perhaps to keep mosquito populations in check. The fish multiplied and the place transformed itself into an unexpected urban aquarium, with catfish swimming among the escalators. Sadly, this past January workers cleared out the fish and drained the water. At last report, the building was set for demolition.

How an Early Female Travel Writer Became an Immunization Pioneer
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by A. Devéria
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by A. Devéria

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was a British aristocrat, feminist, and writer who was famed for her letters. If that were all she did, she would be a slightly obscure example of a travel writer and early feminist. But she was also an important public health advocate who is largely responsible for the adoption of inoculation against smallpox—one of the earliest forms of immunization—in England.

Smallpox was a scourge right up until the mid-20th century. Caused by two strains of Variola virus, the disease had a mortality rate of up to 35 percent. If you lived, you were left with unsightly scars, and possible complications such as severe arthritis and blindness.

Lady Montagu knew smallpox well: Her brother died of it at the age of 20, and in late 1715, she contracted the disease herself. She survived, but her looks did not; she lost her eyelashes and was left with deeply pitted skin on her face.

When Lady Montagu’s husband, Edward Wortley Montagu, was appointed ambassador to Turkey the year after her illness, she accompanied him and took up residence in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The lively letters she wrote home described the world of the Middle East to her English friends and served for many as an introduction to Muslim society.

One of the many things Lady Montagu wrote home about was the practice of variolation, a type of inoculation practiced in Asia and Africa likely starting around the 15th or 16th century. In variolation, a small bit of a pustule from someone with a mild case of smallpox is placed into one or more cuts on someone who has not had the disease. A week or so later, the person comes down with a mild case of smallpox and is immune to the disease ever after.

Lady Montagu described the process in a 1717 letter:

"There is a set of old women, who make it their business to perform the operation, every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the small-pox: they make parties for this purpose, and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) the old woman comes with a nuts-hell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox, and asks what veins you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch), and puts into the vein as much matter as can lye upon the head of her needle, and after that binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell; and in this manner opens four or five veins. . . . The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health to the eighth. Then the fever begins to seize them, and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark; and in eight days' time they are as well as before their illness."

So impressed was Lady Montagu by the effectiveness of variolation that she had a Scottish doctor who worked at the embassy, Charles Maitland, variolate her 5-year-old son in 1718 with the help of a local woman. She returned to England later that same year. In 1721, a smallpox epidemic hit London, and Montagu had Maitland (who by then had also returned to England) variolate her 4-year-old daughter in the presence of several prominent doctors. Maitland later ran an early version of a clinical trial of the procedure on six condemned inmates in Newgate Prison, who were promised their freedom if they took part in the experiment. All six lived, and those later exposed to smallpox were immune. Maitland then repeated the experiment on a group of orphaned children with the same results.

A painting of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants
Jean-Baptiste Vanmour, Art UK // CC BY-NC-ND

But the idea of purposely giving someone a disease was not an easy sell, especially since about 2 or 3 percent of people who were variolated still died of smallpox (either because the procedure didn’t work, or because they caught a different strain than the one they had been variolated with). In addition, variolated people could also spread the disease while they were infectious. Lady Montagu also faced criticism because the procedure was seen as “Oriental,” and because of her gender.

But from the start, Lady Montagu knew that getting variolation accepted would be an uphill battle. In the same letter as her first description of the practice, she wrote:

"I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England; and I should not fail to write to some of our doctors very particularly about it, if I knew any one of them that I thought had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue for the good of mankind. But that distemper is too beneficial to them, not to expose to all their resentment the hardy wight that should undertake to put an end to it. Perhaps, if I live to return, I may, however, have courage to war with them."

As promised, Lady Montagu promoted variolation enthusiastically, encouraging the parents in her circle, visiting convalescing patients, and publishing an account of the practice in a London newspaper. Through her influence, many people, including members of the royal family, were inoculated against smallpox, starting with two daughters of the Princess of Wales in 1722. Without her advocacy, scholars say, variolation might never have caught on and smallpox would have been an even greater menace than it was. The famed poet Alexander Pope said that for her, immortality would be "a due reward" for "an action which all posterity may feel the advantage of," namely the "world’s being freed from the future terrors of the small-pox."

Variolation was performed in England for another 70 years, until Edward Jenner introduced vaccination using cowpox in 1796. Vaccination was instrumental in finally stopping smallpox: In 1980, it became the first (and so far, only) human disease to be completely eradicated worldwide.

Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane

What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.


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