Gallery - Kelly Tarltons

Nestled away on Tamaki Drive with an excellent view of the Waitemata Harbour is an aquarium that started a world wide trend. Conceived and developed by Kelly Tarlton he wanted a way to show to the general public what the experience of diving was for him - letting you see the abundant marine life that normally lies hidden beneath the waters surface. To do it he had a radical idea of a tank sufficiently large that people could move through it on a conveyor system with clear plastic tunnel walls standing between them and the well stocked marine environments.

It wasn't known whether acrylic sheeting could be shaped into the required water-tight shapes needed to make the project work. Along the way he developed new techniques for shaping the material as well as obtaining the use of the otherwise abandoned sewage storage tank facility to house it. It gave him a building already designed to be largely water tight and better yet sited only a short distance outside the CBD of a major city. It is a move of inspired vision combined with a mixture of cunning tenacity as well as pragmatism that led to the creation of what is now known as Kelly Tarlton's. Ask pretty much any New Zealander and they will recognise the name and what is featured there.

Indeed it is such a tourist and holiday destination that generally I suggest getting there early on any day you want to visit. Weekdays often have school trips and weekends have a lot of parents and tourists like myself keeping the place busy. As you can see in the third photograph the queue was fairly long and it took fifteen minutes to get through even with the heavily streamlined process put in place.

The main entrance, parking to the left of it.

Taken from the same place as the first shot the building down past the cars is the exit. This gives you an idea of the size of the place.

Here is the queue to the entrance. To me this was busy but the entrance is clearly designed to handle much larger crowds.

New Zealand has a long history of antarctic exploration so we get penguins and a replica of Scott's Hutt as part of the exhibits.

This kinda horrified me really, people are happy to put their children inside a mock shark mouth. I wonder what the children think of this and how many nightmares it has spawned...

A staff member inside the stingray enclosure telling the public about stingrays. Later on he came around and let people handle a stingray barb, to illustrate just how they can cause such damage and should be respected.

Thanks to light levels and their motion both the stingray here and the sharks in the other shots are slightly blurry.

With sharks there is always the awareness that they are watching you just as much as you are watching them.

A diver is in the tank doing a little suction cleaning of the gravel. Although the cleaning equipment used is on a slightly larger scale than most hobbyists.

Here I shifted to tryig to capture the light through the fish, their fins especially.

Gentoo penguins doing their thing. The others are King penguins.

That this one looks a little like the cover to Woob's 1194 album is not entirely an accident.

This is one of the better shots of the stingray. A very elusive animal to capture in low light.

I have no idea what this fish is, besides a coral species. But it did demand to be captured on film as it was pretty fearless in its tank.

Such a sparkly fish, don't stick your hand in though - it is a Pirana.

The seahorse is my best attempt yet at capturing these interesting and quite beautiful animals. Even with the better light these are so fluttery and restless that capturing them properly is something that I suspect could take several hours to do right. Also the sharks are released after about three months so they do have a rotation of animals. Hopefully though from these shots you can get some idea of why Kelly Tarltons has been a tourist venue for so long - while you might not visit often it is a pretty unique facility with an excellent chance to see marine life largely doing their thing.

To see more about the aquarium and perhaps work out when you want to visit go to their website

Philip R. Banks
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