on January 15, 2010
I'd love to claim my first impressions of The Deep were "Wow! What an amazing looking building?" but they weren't. My thoughts were "Gosh, is the weather ALWAYS as awful as this?" The wind was blowing a gale and the spray off the Humber was spiking horizontally across the car park. The building is an imposing wedge of glass and metal and faced with an iconic new building, I would normally have taken a big deep breath and got a good eyeful of this before walking in. However, with wind I could hardly stand up in I put my head down and ran. There's a mid-sized car park beside The Deep. I would imagine at busy times it wouldn't be anything like big enough. I arrived at a few minutes to 5 pm and there were only half a dozen cars there. When I visited the car park was £3. Since I was on my own, it added a lot to the cost of my visit. Last entry is at 5 pm - I had to run to beat the deadline so maybe it's a good thing that the weather stopped me loitering over the building. I would have been furious after parting with £3 for the car park if they hadn't let me in because there's nothing else to do around The Deep. I paid £8 for my ticket but the prices have risen since - it's now £8.95. At the time I thought that was a lot but I've since been to several much more expensive aquaria so I'm no longer so sure that this was over-priced.~Off to see the Fish~After paying, you walk along a corridor and take a lift or the stairs to the 3rd floor of the building. The tour then involves walking down a series of wide ramps and working your way from top to bottom. There's quite a lot of walking involved and if you are in a wheelchair, you might want to check your brakes before taking on the hairpin bends. I had the impression that part of the purpose of the ramps was to give the impression that the place was bigger than it really was. I entered through a turnstile and right in front was a beautiful small tank of tiny box fish, and some green fellas that looked like a cross between a sea horse and a piece of grass. The chap at the turnstile came over to talk to me about the tank and I really enjoyed that personal touch, brief though it was. It was a nice tank and my hopes were high for the rest of the tour.Then started the interminable ramps and the excessive noise. For goodness sakes, the sea is a quiet place. One of the benefits of diving is there are no mobile phones and certainly no non-stop looped video screens telling me about the history of the earth. The first ramp is presented as an Earth Timeline with distance representing time since the world began. Oh boy, I'm so not interested in all of that stuff. I have a degree in geology and I don't need another 'big bang to present' model. All along the ramp are touch screens for the kids to play with, quizzes and video screens. It was empty when I was there but I could just picture thousands of school kids running back and forth, fiddling with all the displays. Where was the peace and quite I was seeking and more importantly, where were the fish? The first big tank display was the Lagoon of Light, a gem of a tank full of all the things you'd expect to see in a coral lagoon - banner fish, tangs, damselfish, parrot fish, little spotted rays and some gorgeous little bonnethead sharks (like hammerheads but with a shovel instead of a hammer). The lighting in this tank was bright and the colours were sharp and true. Tucked in a corner near by the coral lagoon was something called the Discovery Corner. This wasn't open when I visited but apparently the small tanks were filled with creatures that kids can touch and play with. They limit the 'stress' caused to the animals but having just a few sessions each day. More ramps, more video screens, more games and I'm off to the big tank - the 'Endless Ocean'. Now the 'big tank' is the one thing that really makes or breaks a good aquarium. If you get a truly spectacular one, then I can forgive all the other annoyances. The Endless Ocean tank is good - floor to ceiling glass walls give great visibility but that's hampered a bit by the glass being curved and slightly distorting. The tank was quite gloomy - I wondered if someone had turned down the lights at first - so much so that big sharks could appear suddenly without you noticing them until they were in your face. The large rays down at the bottom of the tank could sometimes only be seen by flashes of the underside of their 'wings'. The big tank deserved a ten out of ten for the range of sharks and other 'big fish' - a rather lower score for the smaller stuff which comprised a lot of rather dull grey and silver fish swimming around in shoals. The sharks were of a menacing pre-historic proportions with white tip reef sharks that are small and sleek, like sports cars, and big ugly ones in there that look like they've been hiding out in Loch Ness for a few million years. They have nurse sharks, tiger sharks, zebra sharks, wobbegongs and the Green Sawfish. The Sawfish is more closely related to rays than sharks but looks like a squashed shark with a hedgetrimmer stuck on its nose. With big rays and some large morays as well, I thought the tank was a bit over-crowded. As with most big aquaria, there are a number of other sub-zone tanks around the centre including a 'twilight zone' which should have contained glowing luminous critters but didn't. There was an excellent tank of cod, a cold water zone and displays of anemone clown fish, poisonous lion and scorpion fish and many others. ~The Submarine~Now maybe it's just because the video screens and noise were really getting to me by this stage, but I didn't explore this area. There is some kind of re-enactment where the kids can pretend to be piloting a submarine into the deep ocean. I was really fed up with all the gimmicks by this stage so I marched off in search of more fish.~The Wow Factor~Every big aquarium needs a good 'Wow!' moment and it's usually delivered near the end. The Deep has two - neither of which is a 'megawow' but both will impress first time I'm sure. The first is a tunnel in the tank - it's quite a short one but it's effective. When I was in the tunnel some staff had just thrown in some food and there were three large sharks cuddled up to the glass looking for it; it was an excellent view. The final Wow is the 'great glass elevator' - my term, not there's - which actually rises up through the tank, stopping for a few seconds in the middle where you can be ignored by all the fish. There is apparently a long wait for this during the day but I breezed straight in at 5.30 with no delay. ~Catering and Shopping~There seem to be a lot of places to eat and drink but at 5.30 they were all closed. One of the restaurant areas gives you the opportunity to go up to the 4th floor and look out over the Humber - the brownest water in the universe. I spotted an indoor 'picnic' zone which seemed like a good idea because a day out for a family is a bit pricey and you might want to bring your food. As you'd expect there's a big shop where you can stock up on all the cuddly stingrays and plastic shark pencil sharpeners you could ever need. ~Overall Recommendation~If you are in the area - then definitely give it a look If you have kids, they'll probably love it. But for purist fish anoraks like me, this isn't one to return to.
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