The Ozeaneum in Stralsund is a museum dedicated to our world's oceans. It is a place where every visitor can learn more about life under water. The Ozeaneum offers a wealth of knowledge for every visitor interested in our ocean world. The museum is also a perfect place for children to learn more about all different kinds of marine creatures. In this blog entry I write more about my visit in the Ozeaneum and what I have learnt.
The Ozeaneum in Stralsund
Giant squids in the deep ocean. Widely unexplored deep-sea anglerfishes. Or the biodiversity of invertebrates in our oceans. There is still so much out there we do not know yet. We know so little about all the organisms that inhabit the waters of our oceans. They say that we know more about the moon than about the deep sea. Is that one reason why so many people are fascinated about life under water?
I cannot remember quite exactly when I became fascinated by the sea. Even though I saw the sea for the first time when I was eighteen, books and nature documentaries had already aroused my interest in the ocean world and the desire to explore this mysterious place on our earth.
I love to be at the sea. But I do not live close to it. Thus, it is always special for me to be anywhere close-by. In Stralsund I did not explore the sea by boat or anything similar, but I wanted to visit the Ozeaneum to learn more about the oceans and all the creatures that live in it. In this blog entry you will be taken on to an exciting day through the Ozeaneum and all the things I have learned.
However, a museum should not be a place ticked off of any bucket list. The most important thing is - in my opinion - to take your time and dive into the broad knowledge a museums is supposed to deliver. Knowledge. Inspiration. Or in the case of the Ozeaneum actions for the protection of our oceans. Whatever you want to see, hear or discover. Thus, in this blog entry I will tell you more about some things I have learned on my visit.
Tip: There is another museum in Stralsund which is dedicated to our oceans. The name of the museum is: Meeresmuseum. You will find the museum in the street Katharinenberg 14-20, 18439 Stralsund. You will find more information on their official website.
After entering the Ozeaneum and paying for the entrance fee, the signs of the exhibition lead you via an escalator to three whale skeletons. On the following photograph you can see a skeleton of a fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Just next to the fin whale skeleton, you will find a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and a common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) skeleton.
Give yourself time at this place to marvel at the size of marine mammals. The fin whale skeleton stems from an individual found dead in 2005 at the southern Baltic Sea. The animal probably had died, because it became lost in the shallow bodden. Is is believed that the fin whale died of circulatory failure caused by stress.
Just next to the three whale skeletons you can find a vitrine with a heart and trachea of a fin whale.
Interesting: The heart of a fin whale might appear giant, however, in relation to its size, its heart is not extraordinary big. Did you know that the pulse rate of a fin whale approaches only 8 heartbeats per minute, and thus, is ten times slower than the pulse rate of a human? The bigger a mammal is, the slower is its heart rate.
In the Ozeaneum you will find several exhibitions. One exhibition is about our world's oceans.
It was dark in the exhibition hall, but a soft blue glimmer shone onto the artful and beautiful exhibits like, for example, onto a siphonophorae (Agalmopsis elegans). This amazing exhibit and all the information around just left me speechless and in awe behind.
The oceans are just gigantic. With a total area of 361 million square kilometers and a depth of 3.790 meters on average, our world's oceans cover about 70% of the earth.
Wow! Just to name a few numbers...
The exhibition is full with numbers and facts. However, there is also space for exhibits to marvel at. Like the ones made of glass. Another impressive exhibit is one of a Portuguese man-o-war (Physalia physalia).
Siphonophorae like the Portuguese man-o-war belong to the cnidarians. Cnidarians are named after their specialized cells - the cnidocytes - which they use for catching prey. Most interestingly, the Portuguese man-o-war is not a single organisms. The Portuguese man-o-war consists of individual animals - the so-called zooids. These zooids work together and function as one organism.
Nevertheless, another exhibit to admire was the one of a jewel squid.
Jewel squids live in depths between 200 and 1.000 meters. The red color of the jewel squids protects against predators, as red light cannot penetrate into the deep sea. Thus, jewel squids are perfectly camouflaged in deep waters. Jewel squids furthermore have luminous cells. These luminous cells enable them to confuse predators or attract prey and conspecifics, respectively.
The exhibits made of glass were definitely my favorite ones in the World Ocean exhibition.
Information: The World Ocean exhibition is quite extensive. You can also marvel at limestone formations or learn more about all the adaptations of organisms in an extreme environment like, for example, in the deep sea where organisms are exposed to an increasing water pressure. There is so much to explore in the Ozeaneum.
If you further follow the signs in the World Ocean exhibition, you will reach the exhibition about the Baltic Sea.
In this section of the museum you will learn more, for example, about ocean salinity and its effects on marine organisms. Importantly, many marine organisms are not able to reproduce in an environment with low ocean salinity. This, consequently, affects biodiversity in an area with low ocean salinity.
One marine mammal that lives in the Baltic Sea is the harbor porpoise. Of course, the Ozeaneum dedicates a segment of the Baltic Sea exhibition to these marine animals. Harbor porpoises prefer the shallow and calm waters of the Baltic Sea when mothers give birth to their calves. They will spend several months in these waters. In the exhibition, however, you will not only learn more about their biology, you will also hear that researchers assume that there exist two separate populations in the Baltic Sea. A western population with probably about 30.000 harbor porpoises, and in contrast, harbor porpoises in the southwest of the Baltic Sea with only about 200-600 animals. 100 years ago, harbor porpoises were more numerous in the Baltic Sea. Today, they can be observed in larger numbers only in the western Baltic Sea.
I wrote about the harbor porpoises in Flensburg in a previous blog entry.
Nevertheless, there are more marine mammals that live in the Baltic Sea like, for example, seals. However, only three species of seals occur in the Baltic Sea. Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), and ringed seals (Pusa hispida botnica).
In the exhibition you will learn more about the different hunting methods of grey seals and the whiskers - or vibrissae - they use for hunting. You will also hear more about their abundance and distribution.
Interesting: Grey seals use their vibrissae for hunting. With them they are able to hunt even in murky waters, as they use their vibrissae to detect the movements of their prey. They are able to detect these movement at a distance of up to 40 meters. Furthermore, grey seals are able to dive for up to 20 minutes and they can swim at a speed of up to 30 km/h.
Grey seals and other seals were heavily hunted in the 20th century. In the 70ies their numbers continued to decline because of industrial pollution and an increase in tourism. Today, their numbers have luckily recovered. Their numbers even seem to grow. At least the populations of grey seals and harbor seals. Populations of ringed seals, in contrast, seem to stagnate.
In the following two photographs you can see a grey seals (on the left) and a harbor seal (on the right).
In the exhibition halls there is so much to explore. There is also information about the chalk cliffs on Rügen or the bodden in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. However, at some point it is enough. It is just not possible to explore everything in the Ozeaneum. The museum has just too much to marvel at, to read, or to think about.
Thus, we continued and reached the aquariums. The aquariums can be divided into the Open Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the penguins.
In an aquarium I observed, for example, a lumpsucker (Cyclopterus lumpus, on the left) and brown trouts (Salmo trutta, on the right).
To visit the penguins, meaning the Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti), you have to use the stairs. In this section of the Ozeaneum you can also find a small exhibition for children and a playground. But the penguins are outside. Thus, we passed the playground and went outside to see the penguins.
Humboldt penguins originally live at the coasts of Peru and Chile. The penguins in the Ozeaneum, however, stem from other zoological facilities that participate in the European Endangered Species Program. Thus, these penguins were not torn out of their natural habitat.
However, Humboldt penguins are according to the IUCN classified as "vulnerable". Even though the Ozeaneum educates visitors about these penguins, I felt sad about seeing these special birds at the top of a building in Stralsund. Why do we have to breed penguins anywhere in Germany or any other zoological facility for their conservation? Do all the threats Humboldt penguins are exposed to in their natural habitat justify breeding them in captivity? Some of their main threats are over-fishing, marine pollution, the destruction of their breeding burrows due to the guano mining, and the death in fishing nets as by-catch. I'm sure, there are even more threats...
Interesting: Most other penguin species live further south in the Southern Polar Seas. But not the Humboldt penguin. Humboldt penguins prefer the nutrient-rich waters of the Humboldt Current where they can find fishes in abundance. Anchovies are their favorite fishes.
Nevertheless, after visiting the penguins, we continued with the exhibition. Actually, there are many signs in the Ozeaneum that lead you through the exhibition halls. However, after the penguins we definitely lost our orientation in the building. As I really wanted to see the 1:1 Giants of the Sea exhibition, we did not stay for such a long time in the exhibition hall where the Exploration and Utilization of the Seas exhibition was located. Of course, this was another exhibition not to be missed. However, we already had to digest so much information. Thus, we stayed in that exhibition just for a short time. I would have been interested to stay a little bit longer, but it was just too much. The exhibition is, among other things, about global warming.
As we were full with information, we went to the 1:1 Giants of the Sea exhibition hall at the end of our visit. It is a vast exhibition hall where you can feel like being under water. At least a little bit. A blue light shone onto the marine organism exhibits. The exhibits hanged from the ceiling. One interesting fish, I unfortunately have never seen in the sea - but now in the Ozeaneum as an exhibit - is the ocean sunfish.
Think about the eggs of a sunfish and the larvae that hatch from these eggs. These larvae have a size of only about two to three millimeters. But a sunfish can reach a size of up to three meters. Wow. Just amazing. And by the way, sunfishes are the heaviest bony fishes on earth. They can be as heavy as 1.4 tons.
I had to marvel at the sun fish exhibit for some time. But then I looked over to some other marine animal exhibits. I saw a humpback whale and a killer whale.
Tip: In the 1:1 Giants of the Sea exhibition hall is a multimedia show at regular intervals. You can lie on one of the loungers and listen to the voices of the multimedia show. The show is about the threats whales are exposed to in the oceans. Just go down to the first floor. In the first floor you can listen to the show. The 1:1 Giant of the Sea exhibition is located in a four-floor hall.
I was also impressed by the sperm whale exhibit. The exhibit shows a sperm whale and how it battles with a giant squid. Sperm whales are able to dive up to 3.000 meters in order to hunt for squids like this giant squid. Apparently, no person has ever seen such a battle between a sperm whale and a giant squid. But residuals of a giant squid and impressions of sucker cups indicate that sperm whales and giant squids fight with each other.
In the first floor of this vast exhibition hall you can also admire the size of a real giant squid (but not a live one). As so little is known about these marine animals, it was indeed very interesting to look at it at the end of the exhibition.
After passing by at some black sea cucumbers (Holothuria forskali), we decided to finally leave the Ozeaneum.
Interesting: By the way, there are several information cards for children and adolescents distributed in the exhibition halls. On these information cards children learn more about life cycles of marine organisms. For example, did you know that sea cucumbers use their organs to defend themselves against predators? Thereupon, the organs have to grow until they can be used again by the sea cucumber as a weapon.
Even though a day in a museum cannot substitute a day at the sea, the Ozeaneum is anyway worth a visit where you can "dive" a little bit into the world's oceans.
11 things I learned in the Ozeaneum
1. Jellyfishes consist of almost only water
Jellyfishes consist of up to 98% water. In this way, they are perfectly adapted to a life under water and they can resist the high water pressure in the deep sea. Humans do not have such adaptations. Humans can stay under water in depths of up to 200 meters only for a short time, because they are not able to resist the water pressure in these depths.
On the following photograph you can see a compass jellyfish (Chrysaora sp.).
2. Marine animals are adapted to a life under high water pressure
Marine animals have adaptations to live under water like, for example, sperm whales. They are perfectly adapted to a life under high water pressure. Sperm whales have flexible ligaments that connect the ribs and the spine. In this way, the water pressure in the depths of the sea can collapse the lungs. Furthermore, a large and plate-like breastbone protects the heart against the high water pressure. Sperm whales are able to dive up to 3.000 meters. So far, sperm whales hold the world record among mammals.
3. Fishes have to drink
Do fishes have to drink? Fascinating question. Yes. They do. Because fishes live in a saline environment in the oceans. Their environment is more saline than their body fluids. Therefore, fishes have to drink, as they continuously loose water to their saline environment. In order to keep the concentration of salt low in the body, fishes are able to secrete salt via pores in their gills.
4. Salinity influences the size of mussels
The salinity drops in the central Baltic Sea. In the waters around Gotland the salt concentration reaches only about 10 grams per liter. In these waters, mussels (Mytilidae) are smaller than those in the western Baltic Sea, as there salinity increases. The highest salinity level is 30 grams per liter in Kattegat. Consequently, the largest mussels can be found in these waters.
5. Three seal species live in the Baltic Sea
There are three seal species in the Baltic Sea. Grey seals, ringed seals, and harbor seals. Grey seals occur in the entire Baltic Sea. Ringed seals only in the northern Baltic Sea in four separate populations. Harbor seals live especially in the western Baltic Sea, as they migrated from the North Sea into the Baltic Sea.
On the photograph is a grey seal.
6. Why is the bodden called bodden?
Why did they name the bodden bodden? The bodden is a shallow stretch of water with a depth of only about two to five meters. You can find these coastal waters in the north of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. It is assumed that the bodden got its name due to the fact, because the ground of these waters is so close to the water surface.
7. The skerries are the most frequent shore type in the Baltic Sea
The most frequent shore type in the Baltic Sea is not the bodden in the north of Germany, but the skerries further north in the Scandinavian countries. The skerries are small islands close to the coast. Few years ago I was astonished by the skerries in Finland. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of these landscapes.
8. Which differences are there between marine mammals and fishes?
Both fishes and marine mammals are perfectly adapted to a life under water with their streamlined bodies. But anyway, there are differences between both of them. Marine mammals have to breathe air, because their lungs only can absorb the oxygen of the air. Fishes, in contrast, are able to absorb the oxygen of the water via their gills.
On the photograph you can see a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).
9. Marine animals are perfectly adapted to a life under water
Squids, seals, turtles, penguins, dolphins, sharks and bony fishes have on thing in common. They have a similar body shape. Also known as drop shape. This drop shape helps marine animals to move fast under water. The development of a feature like the drop shape among different organisms is also known as convergence.
On the photograph is an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus).
10. Most animals in the oceans are crustaceans
Did you know that whales and dolphins, but also fishes make up only a small percentage of the organisms in the oceans? Crustaceans are at the top of organisms found in the oceans with 19% followed by molluscs with 17%, fishes with 12%, and single-celled microorganisms and plants with each 10%. The abundances of annelid worms and cnidarians are slightly smaller with 7% and 5%, respectively. Flatworms, echinoderms, and poriferans each make up about 3% of marine organisms. Bryozoa with 2% and tunicates with 1% come last. The residual 8% include different organisms
On the photograph is a Atlantic ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata).
11. There are three more sites besides the Ozeaneum
The Ozeaneum is not the only museum dedicated to the ocean. There is also the Meeresmuseum which is like the Ozeaneum in Stralsund. But there is also the Natureum and the Nautineum. The Natureum is located on Fischland-Darß-Zingst and the Natineum on Dänhom (between Stralsund and Rügen). I have been only at the Ozeaneum so far.
Question: If you have already been at the Ozeaneum in Stralsund, what could you learn? Or is there another fascinating fact you want to share? If you haven't been at the Ozeaneum, is there another fact which is astonishing for you? Please let me know the comments.
Our relationship with the sea...
Plastic pollution. Over-fishing. And the by-catch of marine mammals and other animals in the fishing industry. Of course, topics in the exhibitions of the Ozeaneum and all of them are worrying. And I think these topics are not new for most of us.
In the Ozeaneum I learned that most fishes could reach a greater size and they could become much older, if humans wouldn't fish them in excess for consumption (photograph: Atlantic code - Gadus morhua).
Fishes that suffer from human's overconsumption are Atlantic bluefin tunas (Thunnus thynnus), European plaices (Pleuronectes platessa), rose fishes (Sebastes marinus) and Atlantic halibuts (Hippoglossus hippoglossus). These fishes are now smaller and younger as they used to be in the past. Especially older female fishes would be important for reproduction, as they produce more offspring. The industrial fishing methods are most damaging for marine wildlife. They - and of course the consumers as well - are responsible for the shrinking fish stocks. Now, often young fishes are caught in the fishing nets. Meaning, fishes that will never have the chance to reproduce...
At the beginning of the exhibition in the Ozeaneum, another problem got my attention. Noise pollution.
Even though our oceans might seem rather quiet at first sight, the increasing use of our oceans by humans lead to an ever-growing noise in the habitat of many marine animals. Be it through the engines and propellers of ships. Or through sonar devices in order to explore the sea ground for new resources. But also tourism is responsible for louder oceans. Additionally, more remote places are visited by people. People who want to explore unspoiled nature. But especially loud are underwater explosions. They are fatal for many marine animals (see my blog entry about the harbor porpoises in the Flensburg Fjord).
Information: Loud oceans influence the life of marine organisms. Be it the communication or their orientation under water. Loud oceans also might influence their feeding behavior or their search for a mate. Human-induced noise affects the ocean world. The Ozeaneum is doing its best to educate people about this kind of pollution.
Another issue is the oxygen deficiency caused by too much fertilizer. Due to fertilizers, plankton massively grows. As plankton sinks to the sea floor, a great amount of oxygen is used, because bacteria decompose the plankton under oxygen consumption. No oxygen means no life. The Baltic Sea is an example of a region which is already affected by oxygen deficiency.
Another challenge is global warming. Probably the greatest challenge we face nowadays...
Practical information about the Ozeaneum
The Ozeaneum is located close to the port of the town in the street Hafenstraße 11, 18439 Stralsund. The opening hours vary depending on the season. Please visit the official website of the Ozeaneum to get the most recent information about the opening hours. On the official website you will also see the ticket prices and a description of how to get there.
We paid 17 Euros for one ticket. Furthermore, I paid for an audioguide and a permission to photograph for each 1 Euro.
The Ozeaneum can be divided into the following sections:
World Ocean exhibition
Baltic Sea exhibition
Baltic Sea Aquarium
Exploration and Utilization of the Seas
North Sea Aquarium
Children's Sea and penguins
1:1 Giants of the Sea exhibition
Open Atlantic Aquarium
The exhibitions are quite extensive. Thus, you have to decide what is most interesting for you if you only have one day.
Tip: There is an education website for kids. The name of this website is Kindermeer (only in German). The website is filled both with games, but also with knowledge about marine organisms of our oceans. You will also find the information cards online which are distributed in the exhibition halls.
Resources and links about the Ozeaneum
Do you know the Ozeaneum in Stralsund? What have you learned? Is there another museum you know about the oceans? Please let me know in the comments.