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In depth

The Deep: Hull’s Remarkable Aquarium

The deepest aquarium in Europe is to be found in Hull, a port in the North East of England. Its economy, which until recently was based on fishing and engineering, had been devastated and morale was so low that the city was said to have forgotten that it had a waterfront. Now that has changed and The Deep, as the aquarium is called, is only one of a range of developments, including a new shopping centre and waterfront apartments and offices. The cost of building the aquarium was £45.5m, with a grant of £5m from the Millennium Commission and the decision by Hull City Council to go ahead with this imaginative project was their way of marking the start of the new century.

They chose as their architect Sir Terry Farrell who gave them a striking aquarium design  that local people have taken to their hearts. The aquarium’s design was the responsibility of John Czaky, a renowned and amazingly talented museum and exhibition designer. He was one of a generation that transformed museums and aquariums into lively and interactive educational environments that attract millions of visitors. The aquarium is a delight to visit, with not only an undersea tunnel [with a pressure of the weight of three elephants per square inch!] but two lifts. The first lift takes you up to the top of the aquarium and the second is an acrylic lift that takes visitors down through the main tank so that there is the experience of diving slowly through the water, seeing the fish and marine life that live at different levels. With 3, 500 fish, including 40 sharks, the aquarium offers an exciting glimpse of  marine life and the sea without having to get wet.

The aquarium is operated as a charity and has an important role in research and the conservation of marine life. Recently it has raised money to tag green turtles in order to better understand their life histories and so aid their survival. The tsunami which caused such dreadful human suffering also had an impact upon wildlife in general and marine life in particular and the green turtles, already killed for meat, were badly affected. The aquarium is also branching out into amphibians, assembling a special exhibit. They have a species of the golden poison arrow frog – said to be the most deadliest creature on the planet – which should fascinate especially young visitors to the aquarium.

The aquarium needs to raise money, both for its operating costs and for its conservation and research work and so it is commercially minded. It offers birthday parties for 3 to 11 year olds and sleepovers for larger groups. The creatures of the aquarium are used to inspire a whole range of articles available in the shop and from the aquarium’s on-line catalogue. Anyone fancy a mug in the shape of a shark?

Prince Andrew opened this amazing aquarium in 2002 and described it as inspiring. It was a good word, for it has inspired, not only its many visitors, but the City of Hull itself. Every place needs something that is
unique and this aquarium and indeed this aquarium design – or submarium as it describes itself – has certainly given Hull a new image

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