From the Castle

Deep Science

Ocean Views, a photography exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History spotlights the ocean’s vast wildlife and environment. Nature’s Best Photography and the museum invited photographers of all skill levels to submit their photos of the sea. Over 10,000 photos were submitted and Ocean Views showcases the very best. The exhibit complements the museum’s Ocean Hall, opening September 27, 2008... Hawksbill Turtle off the coast of French Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands Christopher Guglielmo
Gentoo Penguins in Neko Harbour, Antarctica Cynthia Walpole
Goliath Grouper and Cigar Minnows offshore Jupiter, Fla. Douglas David Seifert
Sperm Whale off Pico Island, Azores, Portugal Franco Banfi
Iceberg in fog off Quirpon Island, Newfoundland John Sylvester
Tripletail Wrasse in Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia Keri Wilk
California Sea Lion in Monterey Bay, California Kevin Schafer
Orca Whales off Vancouver Island, British Columbia Ralph Lee Hopkins
John Hopkins Inlet in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska Jon Cornforth
Western Clown Anemonefish in Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi, Indonesia Takako Uno
Walrus in Cape Lee, Edge Island Ralph Lee Hopkins
Wailau Beach rainbow near North Shore Molokai, Hawaii Jon Cornforth
Florida Manatees in Three Sisters Spring, Crystal River, Fla. Todd Essick
Spine-cheek Anemonefish in Raja Ampat, Indonesia Todd Mintz
Harbor Seal in LeConte Glacier, Alaska Tom and Pat Leeson
Sea Otter in Prince William Sound, Alaska Tom and Pat Leeson
Boulders on Beach in Island Hoy, Orkney Islands, Scotland Verena and Georg Popp
Moon Jellyfish off Boston Harbor, Boston, Mass. Wayne J. Dudley
Humpback Whale in the Silver Bank Marine Mammal Sanctuary, Dominican Republic Wyland
Jellyfish in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia Yeang Ch’ng

At the recent Smithsonian Folklife Festival, NASA astronaut Loren Shriver was asked what struck him most about Earth from space: "When you're circling the Earth every 90 minutes, what becomes clearest is that it's mostly water; the continents look like they're floating objects." We should actually think of the oceans as the ocean, since they are one interconnected global system. The ocean is essential to all life; it shapes our climate and weather through an intricate pattern of currents and heating and cooling mechanisms that we are only now beginning to understand. But the ocean is showing alarming strains caused by pollution, overfishing, invasive species and climate change.

These are some of the important issues that visitors to the new Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History will learn about. This spectacular hall will open on September 27 and will be the largest exhibition at NMNH. Benefactor (and Regents chair) Roger Sant explains that it "will help us understand the role we all can play in preserving the ocean for generations to come." Visitors will be immersed in scenes of ocean life as they watch high-definition movies on multiple screens high overhead. "Science on a Sphere" will project satellite data onto a large globe developed by the hall's major partner, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Visitors will also join scientists on a virtual submersible tour of the deep ocean. A 45-foot model of a North Atlantic right whale will look down on a giant squid, a coral reef aquarium and a display highlighting NMNH's vast marine collections. A magnificent book with 320 pictures and 28 maps, Smithsonian Ocean: Our Water, Our World, by acclaimed science and nature writer Deborah Cramer, is being published in conjunction with the opening of the new hall.

Another new NMNH exhibition is "U.S. states and territories. "Dig It!" continues through January 3, 2010, then travels to cities across America. I welcome you to these remarkable exhibitions about topics critical to our future as a species.

G. Wayne Clough is Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.