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Kelly Tarlton’s opens new exhibit

20 December 2004

Christmas gift for Auckland city – Kelly Tarlton’s opens new Stingray Bay exhibit

Forget the two front teeth wished for in the childhood chant. All Phoebe, the giant short-tailed stingray, wants for Christmas is to be in her new home – and it’s no ordinary home that’s being built for her either because she has a wing-span of two metres and weighs over 200kgs!

Phoebe is the largest of the rays at Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World and her Christmas wish will be granted when she and the aquarium’s other rays move next week into a super-sized 350,000 litre open topped acrylic tank in the new Stingray Bay exhibit.

At 40 years of age, Phoebe is the oldest of Kelly Tarlton’s rays, having been brought to the aquarium by Kelly Tarlton himself when he opened the now legendary attraction 20 years ago.

Stingray Bay is stage two of the $12 million dollar redevelopment being carried out by the aquarium’s owner, Tourism Holdings Limited. The tank features a life-like habitat for the stingrays and curved walls that show off these remarkable marine creatures to best advantage.

The new exhibit also includes an interactive display featuring touch-screen technology that allows visitors to learn more about the rays. Added to this large picture windows offering views across Okahu Bay back towards Auckland city have been installed, plus there is a coffee kiosk and new restroom facilities.

In the first stage of development earlier this year a $1.5 million state-of-the-art filtration system was installed. The next two stages taking place over the next two years include further interaction opportunities for visitors, including new shark tank windows which will show off these denizens of the deep to greater effect and allow for better viewing of their feeding time. A reconfiguration of the Antarctic Encounter will also allow better viewing of the King and Gentoo penguins and their chicks.

Added to this, the smaller aquarium displays will be converted into full height tanks and there will be zones where functions, such as cocktail receptions and seminars, can be held.

Kelly Tarlton’s Operations Manager, Andrew Baker, says the opening of the new Stingray Bay exhibit is the culmination of detailed planning and months of challenging construction work in the aquarium, which is built in former sewage tanks under Tamaki Drive.

“This must be one of the most demanding construction jobs to have taken place in Auckland city – or below it, for that matter! To install the new filtration plant and create Stingray Bay, we’ve cut through the half-metre thick concrete walls of the original sewage tanks, removed tonnes of sand used by the old technology filtration system and laid metres of fresh concrete – and all of this while staying open for visitors seven days a week and without stopping traffic on the busy Tamaki Drive above.”

Some of the facts of the redevelopment to date:

800 cubic meters of material has been taken out – old sewage tank walls, silt and sand, etc – and 350 cubic meters of concrete put back in to reshape the attraction

The superior filtration provided by the new plant has generated such a change to water quality that the aquarium’s water is now a blue shade, making it look more like tropical water

At high tide the bottom of the sea windows in the Stingray Bay area will be awash with sea water; the acrylic used for the windows is left over from Kelly Tarlton’s original build in 1985

All of the sand for the new filters was delivered in 25 kg bags and hand tipped into the new filter banks. A further 20 tonnes for the floor of the Stingray Bay tank was also in 25 kg bags and required manual washing before it was tipped into the new tank.


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