The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for July 19th, 2016

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Coney Island Aquarium, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NY Aquarium is based in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

It is the very definition of the “House of Moses” as it was NYC’s master builder Robert Moses who actually created the modern institution. Moses had ousted the Aquarium from its former home on the Battery in Manhattan, at Castle Clinton, when he was pushing to build his Brooklyn Battery Bridge (one of his few defeats, but he got to take over the tunnel project instead) back in 1941. In early June of 1957, Moses unveiled the NY Aquarium here in South Eastern Brooklyn, right next door to the landmarked “Cyclone” roller coaster which predated it by around thirty years and which is pictured above.

As an aside, the Aquarium is the former location of the semi legendary “Dreamland” Amusement park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Currently operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons, the Aquarium was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and is frankly a shadow of its former self. The good news is that there’s a significant amount of construction going on at the site, which should restore the place to its former glory, but there’s not all that much to see hereabouts at the moment. Regardless, due to my NYCID card granted free membership to all the WCS managed properties, I had free admission, so in I went.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bathysphere located outside the Aquarium has to have had every Brooklyn school kid of the last sixty years climb on it.

It’s an artifact of the 1930’s, this pressure capsule, and was used by a zoologist name Beebe and an engineer named Barton (who designed, built, and maintained the thing) to “deep dive” and observe critters in the depths of the sea. It set records for depth back in 1934, as a point of interest, and the bathysphere is said to have descended some 3,028 feet down into the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just after entering, you encounter a dark chamber filled with tanks of various sorts of itchyan critters. It’s pretty darkly lit in there, and as the room is packed with little kids losing their minds at the sights, you need to be pretty careful where you step to avoid squishing any of the kids as they bounce off the walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m no ichthyologist, but I’m pretty sure that’s a ray. This critter was in the largest of the tanks. One is curious about the “behind the scenes” stuff maintaining these tanks – the filters, aeration, and circulation systems alone must represent a volume of water 2/3 larger than what you see in the tank. There were pretty big populations of fish swimming around in these displays, so there has to be some pretty interesting plumbing connected to it, IMHO.

It’s a pretty challenging environment to shoot inside the Aquarium, incidentally, as the tank walls seem to be composed of some sort of thick plastic which created a lot of visual artifacts and light refraction. It’s also, as mentioned, fairly dark in there, and the light levels are set for the comfort of the inhabitants of the tanks rather than for their observers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My “bright lens” which is capable of large apertures such as f1.8 was deployed, and I used one hand as both a light baffle and pad for the lens as I brought it nearly up to the tank. The light baffle part was to control reflection from light sources behind the camera, the “pad” was to avoid directly touching the glass. I had autofocus on, and was “spraying and praying” the shots. Worked out fairly well, with a roughly 40% success rate, as far as image fidelity goes.

That’s some sort of weird tentacle monster above, might be related to certain star spawned deities who are both the key and the gate, and in whom all are one. Y’know, the thousand faced goat from the woods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In another of the tanks there were what looked like schools of Cichlids, in sort of simulated lake environment. That’s what they looked like to me at least, but as mentioned, I’m no ichthyologist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some truly enormous river fish were observed in another tank. I’ve seen smaller specimens of this critter on sale at tropical fish stores in the past, and they’re all jaw.

One of my college jobs, incidentally, was working as an Aquarium Service technician. I’d show up in rich guy’s manhattan offices who had contracted with my boss, and I’d do all the fish tank maintenance chores for them (deep filtering, water change, chemical tests for ph and ammonia levels, assess fish health, mechanics of tank, etc.) I did a couple of Chinese restaurants in midtown as well, which were huge all day jobs on 500 gallon custom salt water tanks. Back in college, I was also a fine art mover, a clerk at a fotomat, a dishwasher – pretty much anything I could do for money I did. Once I took a job shoveling poop.

Told you that visiting this part of Brooklyn made me nostalgic.

Outside of the interior section of the Aquarium, there was a lonely looking and somewhat shy harbor seal, an otter, and a pack of penguins. The Walrus had the day off, according to the signage. Frankly they weren’t too active and nothing interesting happened when I pointed a camera at them, so…


– photo by Mitch Waxman

A temporary tank is housing the Aquarium’s collection of various shark specie.

Were Sharks capable of any thought beyond “kill” or “hunt” I might feel sorry for them, but they’re not, so I don’t. Apparently a new Shark enclosure is under construction which should make them as happy as Sharks are capable of being when they’re not killing.

Affordable housing for Sharks, this?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thought going through my head while struggling to get a few decent shots of these predators was the movie character “Dr. Evil” asking his henchmen to outfit his sharks with “fricking Lasers.” Like tigers, we must maintain the Shark specie in case Aliens ever invade the Earth. The Tigers will be ridden by Russian Special Forces Soldiers, of course, and will shot at the arriving fleet of starships in the warheads of missiles to greet the arriving conquerors with the unique brand of hospitality that Russians offer to invaders. I also like to think that it will be Maori Warriors from New Zealand who will ride laser and space suit equipped sharks into battle with the extraterrestrial armies. I should mention that while I was shooting the Sharks, I was listening to Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” so…

Personally speaking, a welcome will be offered to our new overlords, as the only mount I have to ride into battle on would be an increasingly lazy dog named Zuzu.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember my little explanation of how to guard against backlit reflections in photo situations like these?

This is what happens when you don’t do that, but I thought it made for a neat effect. Almost looks like a double exposure, but it’s just the reflection on the curved glass as the killers slipped by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having accomplished a minor goal, one’s spirits were high and an exit through the Aquarium’s Coney Island Boardwalk portal was engaged. All told, I was at the facility for about an hour.

It was fun, and a I look forward to returning when the WCS has built the new enclosures and fully recovered from Sandy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Trying to decide what to do with myself, as I’d just spent equal amounts of time at the Aquarium and on the train ride to Coney Island from Astoria, a definite course of action was decided upon.

Before you ask, those box thingies on the stilts in the shot above house the Beach’s “comfort stations” and provide the Parks Dept. folks with offices. They run taxpayers about $2 million each, and these are two of the 35 of them being installed on city beaches. They’re built by the Deluxe Building Systems Corp., have galvanized steel frames to withstand the salty atmosphere and weather events, and are brand spanking new.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I turned eastwards, as a silly idea suddenly occurred to me, and the desire for luncheon began to rumble.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

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