If you're looking for THE quintessential all-PRISE social event, then whale watch has to be the one. Though extant for only three years, PRISE has adopted whale watch as its built-in activity. When you hear about PRISE, you must associate it with the sea and humpback whales (after of course making its obvious association with scientific research).
Besides colonizing two thirds of the entire boat, the PRISE delegation gets to visit the aquarium and
Though the moody
The whale watch itself started at 2:30PM, but separate groups started out in the morning to explore the New England Aquarium. I was in the 10:00AM group, with the blatantly touristy bunch armed with an arsenal of digital cameras.
Arriving there, we exited
Before entering the aquarium, we had to observe our unbreakable ritual of taking a group picture. We should have chosen a better place for the group picture, a spot from which the words "New England Aquarium" were clearly visible, in addition to the inscrutable building itself. Out of context, I think few people can tell we were actually visiting the aquarium. Well, at least no one was headless.
Having frequented many aquariums over the course of my long-lived life, I had grown jaded of the fish-in-a-tank concept. The colorful, interactive, and diverse displays in the aquarium however, did offer me fresh excitement in observing the sea's biological endowments. Some creatures I have never seen in my life. I particularly remember the walnut jellyfish - a small, beige-colored organism (really resembling a walnut) boasting rippling navigational fringes that refracted light into its kaleidoscopic constituents. Also eye-opening was the jellyfish with extremely long tentacles (> 3 feet I presume) that carelessly floated in the water like strands of seaweed.
The aquarium was not a big complex. Basically, it was a tall continuous building with a giant conical tank in the center, around which ascending levels of exhibits spiraled to the top.
At the bottom were the penguin enclosures. We stayed for a brief talk about the three species of penguin that are kept in the aquarium. Instead of focusing on the aquarium worker, most of the audience was fascinated with a little penguin that was particularly fond of the worker, as it kept bumping onto his hips with great affection (as interpreted from its constantly fluttering tail feathers). As other penguins zoomed through the water with liquid grace, we could see the traces of yellow nitrogenous waste they nonchalantly left behind. The poor aquarium workers were, at the very moment, cleaning the pool floor with their own feet.
After marveling at the penguins, we ascended the levels that wrapped around the enormous conical fish tank and witnessed the feeding of sharks and other bigger-than-life fishes. A giant turtle (Murtle) kept following the divers carrying the plankton in want of some of its share. Amusingly, whenever it inched its thick neck into the food basket, the worker thwarted its pilfering attempt by blocking its mouth with the palm of her hand. Poor creature!
At around 2:00PM we boarded the boat, which had just unloaded the previous flock of whale watchers. While at first snickering at those who brought jackets in 80+ degree weather, I quickly swallowed my own uprighteousness as the incessant wind and briny spray chilled my body to the bones. Standing on the third level was like standing in the mouth of a gigantic blow drier that relentlessly hurled cold, salty air onto our faces. Pretty soon, keeping balance on the boat also became a great challenge.
A naïve adventurer, I went downstairs and joined the group at the prow, the location at which the up-down motions were the most prominent. Breaking the assailing waves in the open sea was indeed like riding on a roller coaster. We even screamed and raised our hands as the tip of the boat rose and dipped accordingly!
After thoroughly enjoying the first whale watching experience in my life, I would definitely do it again.
Next time, I promise to stay awake for the entire duration of the trip :)