Children surged forward, pointing and pressing their palms and faces against the curved acrylic surface of DIPAC's new aquarium at its unveiling Saturday. On cue, a king salmon hove into view.
"I like it. I like the fish," said 8-year-old Knute Phillips, who earlier was jumping up and down in front of the aquarium.
The 5,000-gallon aquarium at the Ladd Macaulay Visitor Center at the hatchery on Channel Drive replaces one of the same size.
Saltwater had corroded the steel and concrete in the pedestal, and the concrete had cracked.
The new aquarium, made in Japan, is 10 feet in diameter and 9 feet high. Its single curved piece is 112 inches thick.
The project - including tearing down the former aquarium and installing the new one - cost about $100,000, which was raised from cruise companies, local businesses and residents.
"Juneau really has been a great supporter of the DIPAC operations out here ... and we hope that the contribution we've made to the fisheries has been a big step toward repaying that," said Carl Rosier, DIPAC's board chairman.
Douglas Island Pink and Chum is a private, nonprofit fish hatchery with three locations in and around Juneau. The visitor center attracted a record 123,000 people last summer.
The visitor center hosts school groups in fall and spring, and will give other tours on request. It's the site of birthday parties and weddings.
The new aquarium gives visitors a better view than did the former aquarium, which had metal support beams, said Rob Parsons, who manages DIPAC's tourism operations.
The former aquarium was sunk in the floor two feet. The new aquarium is elevated, bringing the mock seafloor to a child's eye level.
"If you wanted to kiss a king crab, you could. The only thing in your way is an inch and a half of acrylic," Parsons said.
The fish, crab and other creatures live in an artificial rocky environment and among big fronds of wavy, plastic kelp. The manmade habitat allows DIPAC to display a realistic-looking scene without having to wait for it to grow naturally.
Inhabitants include king crab, Dungeness crab, hermit crab, king salmon, ling cod, green ling, sole and sea cucumbers.
Eli Phillips, who brought his grandson, Knute, said the aquarium was "awesome." Knute's class had visited DIPAC the week before, as well.
"I think it's great. They can learn more about it. There are a lot of things I didn't know until I came here," Eli Phillips said.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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