- Laura Cardona The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Since 2005, the Georgia Aquarium, known as the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere, has encouraged visitors to leave their terrestrial lives behind for a mysterious underwater place right in their proverbial backyard.
A place where the only thing between them and the largest fish in the world – a whale shark – is a 2-foot-thick acrylic window.
Here are some little-known facts about the Atlanta landmark that has brought this underwater realm to life:
1. The GA marine animals devour nearly 500,000 pounds of food each year. Collectively, the aquarium’s four whale sharks eat more than 47,000 pounds of food each year. To put that into perspective, the average American eats about 1,996 pounds of food yearly.
2. More than two million people visit the aquarium each year. Visitors from 143 countries and all 50 U.S. states have stopped at the aquarium.
3. GA's research and conservation staff has traveled the equivalent of 9.5 times around the world so far this year. That's 238,978 miles this year clocked by research and conservation staff.
4. More than 170,000 gallons of water per minute filters through the aquarium's life support system. The life support system makes sure the water is clean to support the more than 100,000 animals that live in the aquarium.
5. GA's volunteer team more than doubles its paid staff. GA's more than 1,100 volunteers serve 9,000 to 13,000 hours every month, a total of 1.6 million hours since it first opened. The aquarium has more than 500 staff members.
6. GA has the largest team of certified scuba dive masters and instructors with disabilities in the world. Led by a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, the Veterans Immersion Program has helped support more than 1,600 military personnel and guests with disabilities.
7. GA’s education programs have welcomed more than 1 million students since 2005. The programs have allowed students to learn and immerse themselves in the aquatic world since it first opened.
8. GA has a sister property in Florida. Marineland Dolphin Adventure opened in 1938 and is known as the “World’s First Oceanarium.” It was the first to successfully birth and raise a dolphin calf in human care.
9. The aquarium’s Tropical Diver’s Pacific barrier reef habitat is one of the largest living reef exhibits in the United States at about 164,000 gallons. Since 2010, the aquarium has also helped the Coral Restoration Foundation grow coral fragments in an underwater nursery in the Florida Keys.
10. GA has one of the largest aquatic health centers in the world. GA partners with the University of Georgia’s Animal Health Residency program to provide a complete aquatic animal pathology and clinical medicine program in the state-of-the-art Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health.View full experience