Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Travel Tips: Tas-Mania! (Part 2: Seahorse World)

As you know, readers, I have very specific tastes when it comes to other living things. In terms of the ocean, I pretty much hate everything in it. If Napalm worked underwater I would have destroyed every living thing there already.

Don't agree? Let me run through a few of my Neptunian nightmares.

How we have let these things live is beyond me. If I were in charge, we'd be eating shark fin soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner until these jerks were extinct. Prisons, schools and hospitals would be serving shark sloppy joes with a side of shark fries every.single.day until they were gone.


The giant squid: a complete asshole. My hatred also extends to the colossal squid (who is, understandably, camera-shy). If you are not terrified of these creatures, there is something wrong with you. Maybe this information will help to change your mind:
"Unlike the giant squid, whose arms and tentacles only have suckers lined with small teeth, the Colossal Squid's limbs are also equipped with sharp hooks: some swiveling, others three-pointed".
What?!? Swiveling sharp hooks?

That's probably gonna leave a mark.


This little d-bag is responsible for many of my seaside anxiety attacks: the Blue Ringed Octopus. The blue-ringed octopus is the size of a golf ball but its poison is powerful enough to kill an adult human in minutes. There’s no known antidote. The only treatment is hours of heart massage and artificial respiration until the poison has worked its way out of your system. Ever since I heard about this guy in primary school, I have been petrified of standing on one at the beach.

This is one of the cruel ironies of living in Australia; it could be 40 C and you will be standing next to an ocean that looks like this:

knowing that the most deadly creatures known to man are lurking below its crystalline waters waiting to kill you.

Bet you didn't know there were crocodiles at the beach. Well in Australia there are!

Vewwy scewwy!

Readers, this is just a roundabout way for me to tell you that there is only one sea-dwelling creature that I like. One who won't kill you, or force EMTs to handle your poisoned heart with their bare hands. One who subscribes to my own peculiar world view. Ladies and gentleman: the seahorse.

Obviously, when I found out that the world's only seahorse-related museum was located in Beauty Point, Tasmania, I had to visit. Much to the chagrin of my traveling partners, I plotted a course from Devonport to Beauty Point with no stops and no delays. Consequently, we arrived at approximately 8.30am.

In my haste to worship at the temple of my favorite aquatic steed, I forgot to check the opening hours and was forced to camp out in front of the imposing automatic doors.

Don't make the same mistake as me, readers. Allow yourself some time to explore the surrounds of Beauty Point like the boat repair dock, or Platypus House.

When the doors do finally slide open, rush in so as to avoid the crowds (pictured below).

*An aside: You can buy a plush Cuttlefish stuffed toy here, if you're into that kind of thing.

At the desk you'll encounter a man who resembles Lenny from Of Mice and Men and his sidekick, a woman who appears to have recently been mainlining crystal meth out the back. These two will be your fearless cicerones as you delve into the salty stomping ground of the seahorse.

Lenny will take you, and the one other random person who has wandered in to Seahorse World looking for a lavatory, into the first exhibit: The Seahorse Cave. Here, you will encounter four dimly lit aquariums. Listen to Lenny and try to impress him with your encyclopedic knowledge of these aquatic equines. Being the benevolent lady that I am, I will give you the answers to his tricky questions now: 1) Blue and Green, 2) No.

Following this riveting Q and A session, you will make your way to Neptune's Nursery.

This delightful set of plastic tubs illustrates the life cycle of a seahorse. In the first tub, several hundred tadpole-like things dart around aimlessly. The next six tubs contain pretty much the same scene.

It was at this point that my travel mates began muttering softly. I didn't quite catch what they were saying, something about "twenty bucks" and "lame". I agree, Seahorse World should charge more than the paltry $20 per person entry fee; that's so lame!

In Neptune's Nursery, you can also play a fun game: "Guess Whether Your Guide Is An Awkward Virgin, or a Serial Killer". Whoever guesses "both" is the winner (evidence below).

Next, your guide will feed the seahorses; you will observe their hypnotic dancing as they battle for the artificial chum which mimics what they are missing out on in the ocean. That's not all they are missing out on, folks.

Sadly, because they are in a farm, these little fillies are also denied their chance at true love. For them, Seahorse World is more like last call at some terrible sunken dive bar where they have to choose from whatever seahorse tail is available. It's like Vivian says in Pretty Woman, it's all business, no love. And love seahorses do; part of the reason I adore these wee beasts is their rapturous wooing and its resulting domestic partnership.

Allow this passage from Wikipedia (with my own editorial-style interjections) describe the courtship rituals of the lowly seahorse and then tell me its not better than the greatest romantic couplings of history.
"When two parties discover a mutual interest at the beginning of breeding season, they court for several days, even while others try to interfere [haters gon' hate]. During this time they have been known to change color, swim side by side holding tails [Squeee!] or grip the same strand of sea grass with their tails and wheel around in unison in what is known as their “pre-dawn dance”. They eventually engage in their “true courtship dance” lasting about 8 hours [Daang!], during which the male [Censored for seahorse privacy]. Most seahorse species' pregnancies last two to four weeks.... her body slims while his swells [Alright!]. Both seahorses then sink back to the bottom and she swims away.
So, essentially the star-crossed lovers meet, twirl around and consumate their love. After doing the deed, the female stays thin and bolts right after. Hey! Don't judge. She probably had an early meeting at the office.

It gets better, the male has to raise the baby. This is like some underwater Three Men and a Baby business. During the pregnancy:
Throughout the male’s incubation, his mate visits him daily for “morning greetings”. The female seahorse swims over for about 6 minutes of interaction reminiscent of courtship. They change color, wheel around sea grass fronds, and finally promenade, holding each other’s tails [Awww]. Then, the female swims away until the next morning, and the male goes back to vacuuming up food through his snout [Sounds familiar].
The seahorses have got it figured out, y'all. Here's two of them doing their sexy-time dance to a little Enya.

Following the feeding, you'll make your way to the "petting area" where you can touch some rocks and a sea cucumber. You know what you can't touch? A seahorse because, according to Lenny, "our touch is like battery acid to them." So, we are doomed to look upon our sea stallions through fingerprint marked glass.

Also, stay well clear of the cuttlefish. Holy crap that thing was fricken terrifying.

So there you have it, a rollicking adventure through one of the world's great museums. To boost its woeful visitor numbers, I suggest Seahorse World take my advice for a motto:

"Seahorse World: We'll sell you the whole seat, but you'll only need the edge!"


  1. Im doing a project on seahorses (not the funnest subject) and I came across this. THANK YOU...for entertaining my mind. I read this whole damn thing, just because you have the gift of sarcasm. Point is, this is great.

  2. Thanks anonymous commenter! You are as special to me as the rare short snouted seahorse found in the Thames recently. Hope your project turned out to be a winner.