A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Newport Aquarium to hold ribbon cutting Friday for ‘Ring of Fire,’ exhibit features Giant Pacific Octopus

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Newport Aquarium will celebrate the grand opening of Ring of Fire: World of the Octopus with a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday at 10:30 a.m.

Provided image

The event kicks off the opening of an immersive new exhibit, unlike any other at Newport Aquarium. Executive Director Eric Rose will cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the exhibit to the public.

“What’s absolutely wonderful about the Ring of Fire exhibit is the immersive feeling that we get, like you’re literally in the world of the octopus,” said Rose. “When you’re in here, you’re not only seeing the Giant Pacific Octopus, Giant Japanese Spider Crabs, and Moon Jellyfish, you actually feel like you’re living deep under the ocean and the ocean trenches around the Ring of Fire with these animals.”

The exhibit has been a year in design and four months in construction.

“It was a full renovation of the old jellyfish exhibit,” Rose said. “We literally took it back to the cement and we have three new animal exhibits here. All of them are state-of-the-art in their design and their equipment.”

The new exhibit will be unlike any that has come before, complete with unique light and sound effects. Inspired by the volcanoes and earthquakes that define the Ring of Fire, guests will experience a periodic display of glowing light and rumbling sound.

It features some of the most popular and inquired- about animals at the aquarium, the Giant Octopus, the Japanese Spider Crab and the Pacific Moon Jellyfish.

Pacific Moon Jellyfish are among the new animals on display at the Newport Aquarium ‘Ring of Fire’ exhibit. The Aquarium has created a jellyfish nursery to breed thousands of the species (photos by Mark Hansel).

“Those are the stars of the show,” Rose said. “What was the best thing for me, pulling it all together this week, is that we are able to see it in all its glory and experience the whole environmental feel.”

All of the animals in the new exhibit live in the Pacific Ocean, around the Ring of Fire.

“The Ring of Fire is the most geologically active part of our planet,” Rose said. “It has the most volcanic activity anywhere. It runs from California to Alaska to Japan and even down to New Zealand.”

The fun show element is a reminder for guests of the churning seismic activity that created the rippling sea floor, caves and other rock formations where amazing creatures like the Giant Pacific Octopus live. There is something for guests of all ages to explore and enjoy.

“This is where all of these animals call home and that’s the story line we are telling,” Rose said. “Within the exhibit we have little volcano sequences, where you hear a little rumbling and the lights go off and you really get the sensation of being under water in the Pacific Ocean.”

Ring of Fire: World of the Octopus will feature three zones within the space where guests can explore each specific species:

Giant Pacific Octopus: After witnessing the unusual characteristics of the Giant Pacific Octopus, like their ability to camouflage and change shape, guests will get to explore the Octopus Den. An arched rock portal invites guests into this cave-like new space never before accessible to the public. There, they will learn more about this highly intelligent species through videos and interactives.

Moon Jellyfish: An all-new custom built display of Moon Jellyfish will showcase hundreds of moon jellyfish as they drift along. The picture window display is big enough so both little kids and grownups can take in the mesmerizing view.

Japanese Spider Crabs: The spider crabs will be featured in a cylindrical tank where guests can watch them explore their surroundings with a 360-degree view. Wall graphics showing the full size of the species will serve as a fun photo op next to a man-size crab as they can reach up to 12 feet claw to claw in the wild.

A giant octopus looks over the shoulder of Newport Aquarium Executive Director Eric Rose.

“The Pacific Octopus is unique in its own right as an animal, because of its intelligence,” Rose said. “When you come in and watch, you will see him move around the exhibit, touch things and explore his habitat in a very smart and intelligent way. They actually have a very large brain and the suckers on their tentacles act as like little fingertips, so it’s amazing to watch them.”

The Newport Aquarium staff is constantly working on two or three new exhibits at a time and the goal is to bring at least one, if not more, new exhibits to guests every year.

“One of the most important things that I do in running the Newport Aquarium and frankly, the thing I enjoy the most, is designing new exhibits,” Rose said. “We have a team of about 10 professionals, all different disciplines, and we spend at least half of our time talking about the future and the new experiences that we want to create for our guests and what we want to teach them about this wonder aquatic world that we have to share.”

The Aquarium has also created its own jellyfish nursery, which is available to guests on the ‘Behind the Scenes’ tours.

“Since we went and put in a state-of-the-art jellyfish exhibit, we thought it was equally important to start breeding our own jellyfish, Rose said. “We’ll be producing thousands, if not tens of thousands jellyfish a year to not only supply our needs, but we’ll be able to share that with other aquariums around the United States.”

Newport Aquarium,  was named one of the top 10 U.S. aquariums in 2017 by USA Today’s 10Best.com, one of the top U.S. aquariums in 2016 by Leisure Group Travel, and has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999.

For more information, visit NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-FISH (3474).

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

Related Posts

Leave a Comment