I See Salt Water People


Aquarium of the Pacific

diver, photograph taken by Reinis Traidas

I recently decided to pay a visit to Long Beach’s Aquarium of The Pacific and I was so grateful to have chosen to go on Sunday, as it was the 6th Annual Moompetam: Gathering of the Salt Water People, inclusive with regular admission.

After a hilarious scenic tour of the downtown area courtesy of whatever bicycle race kept us driving in circles like escapees from Autopia, we arrived at the Aquarium—in third place! All told we were at the Aquarium for five hours and thought we had seen at least a cursory viewing of everything (we hadn’t), but there is so much to do and see here you could easily spend the entire day. Beautifully designed exhibits entertain and educate, while live shows and hands-on tidal pools create once-in-a-lifetime memories to be treasured.

I’ll share two of my favorite moments. The first stand-out experience involved watching divers in huge coral reef tanks hand-feed flurries of exotic fishes, sharks and sea turtles. Note: fishes eat their broccoli — which may by itself justify the expense of bringing your family. Fish are also keen on nibbles of lettuce, bits of other fish and exposed fingers and ears, so the volunteer divers keep covered up. Interestingly, they train different species to eat from specific places in the tank, which involves some clever fake outs of freeloaders who try to double dip. There was a surprising amount of interaction between the staff, divers and audience and I’m grateful for the Aquarium representative who appeared to speak with the audience and answer questions one-on-one.

The second spell-binding event we witnessed was the beautiful Tongva Singing featuring Gabrielino Tongva Tribal Chairwoman, Virginia Carmelo, and her family, who blended chanting with complex harmonies as they danced and played percussive instruments in full tribal gear and face-paint. (Baskets seriously make great hats.) Drums weren’t used by southern coastal native peoples, who instead used split-reed clackers, struck against the palm, to keep the beat. This special event was part of Moompetam (meaning “People of the Ocean” in Tongva), which celebrated using “traditional music, storytelling, dance, cultural demonstrations, and festival cuisine…in this one-of-a-kind intertribal maritime cultural event.” I highly recommend visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific’s website prior to visiting, since they frequently feature special events.

Visit their website: Long Beach’s Aquarium of The Pacific


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