After seven months of preparation, Channel Islands National Park is putting the final touches on a new indoor tide pool exhibit that includes a wave machine to imitate natural tides.
The old leaky tide pool at the Ventura facility was one-fourth the size of the new one, which is scheduled for a grand opening April 29, said John Prince, who coordinates educational activities for the park service.
The new tide pool, which cost the park service $45,000, is designed with a rock arch similar to one at Anacapa Island. The company that designed the tide pool, Larson and Co. of Tucson, even made artificial barnacles from casts to stick to the rocks.
A tide pool is the area between the land and sea that is not distinct. It's the zone that is covered by water during high tide and exposed to sunlight during low tide. Only hardy marine life survives where the surf pounds.
During the last week, divers have collected more than 50 different organisms to be placed in the tide pool, including starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, snails--even small sharks and the exotic Garibaldi.
"That one is state-protected," said Prince about the perch. "You have to have a special permit."
Prince said park personnel were nervous about putting such exotic fish in the old tide pool, which was built 10 years ago and was less sophisticated. It circulated ocean water in and out, making it impossible to control temperature and water quality.
Some organisms died in the old pool, but the leaks were what led to the reconstruction, Prince said.
"We didn't have any choice," he said. "It was leaking on all sides. We walked in one morning and the floor was covered with water."
The new pool holds 800 to 1,000 gallons of water maintained at 58 degrees. It is 18 feet long, 8 feet wide and 30 inches high. Toddlers can view the marine life from two side windows.
A trickle of people already are coming into the park service building to view the new tide pool and its inhabitants, but all the bugs have yet to be worked out.
Workers are still getting the hang of the wave machine, Prince said. They adjusted the controls to maximum intensity recently and had a "minor tsunami" on their hands, he said. "It was quite a sight," Prince said. "Water went over both ends."