HOVDEN CANNERY, now home of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, was one of many sardine processing plants along Cannery Row--the life of which was described in John Steinbeck's 1945 novel. Image: ROB LEWINE Monterey Bay Aquarium
The southern lip of Monterey Bay--below which opens the deepest submarine canyon on the West Coast--was for three decades home to the world's largest sardine fishery, a lucrative industry that petered out in the early 1950s when the fish disappeared. Scientists reported recently that overfishing most likely did not run the foot-long fish out of the bay, cooler waters did, but no matter. The cannery operations are long gone, and the California town of Monterey has an entirely new industry, one also based on the ocean's wealth.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is housed in a converted cannery, just on the water's rocky edge. Its design, which won an architectural award in 1988, makes visitors feel as though they are in a liminal state: poised between land and water, able to live equally well in both. In the darkness of the Drifters Gallery, for example, undulating, crenulated, luminous jellies are inches away, hundreds of them: from large sea nettles that glow orange against a royal blue background to spinning, tiny sea gooseberries that seem to have internal electric filaments lighting their transparent bodies. It is mesmerizing to sit as if underwater and watch dozens of jellies slowly pulse and rise and fall.
This article was originally published with the title Through a Glass Deeply.