I thought maybe it was the woman in front of me who smelled like fish when I entered the foyer of the Montreal Biodome. I looked back behind me to see if the other Champers smelled it too. They did. I don’t know why, until now, I hadn’t thought about where I was actually going. A zoo, perhaps? A garden? Of course the place smelled like fish, I was entering a building that held four entirely different ecosystems – it was going to smell like nature.
First we walked through a maze of high definition television screens and mirrors. Alternately we were rebounded with images of our giddy faces and moving mirages of a tropical rainforest swirling around our heads. “Yeah, I guess this is kind of cool,” I thought. Of course, when we ducked through the doors into an open arena of swinging vines, hanging branches, and bird calls bouncing from the walls, we lost our blasé edge and became children once again. We all immediately took our coats off and hooked them into our elbows. We were in a tropical rain forest now, what use did we have for them?
It was amazing to see so many different exotic species right in the heart of a bitterly cold city. There were monkeys, giant rodents, florescent pink birds, sloths, trees as wide as cars, and three crocodiles all in a row that sat so still we almost thought they were fake. We had stepped right into South America.
In every hallway there was something to see. Sometimes, giant aquariums glimmered blue-green light on our toes while whales groaned through speakers. Angry looking fish, three feet long, frowned at us as we startled when they swam by. Shadowy coves looked like long hallways. I was overcome with a long forgotten desire to grow fins and swim away forever into the sea.
Once, we passed through a bat cave where bats ducked faster than we could focus our eyes. We also passed glass habitats where bright blue poison frogs glowed and where regularly fed jungle snakes ignored the well-stocked pools of fish just a few feet away. Everywhere there were touch screens and information tablets, so those of us who felt like learning could flip through “fun facts” while others stepped up onto ledges, poked our fingers at the glass, and indulge in the very conveniently located children’s slide.
When we stepped out of South America, we put our coats back on in the cool presence of a beaver dam where a real beaver swam through the water and stumbled out to gnaw at a log. We meandered through a maze of barren trees and little pools of water where ducks dove to the bottom, waving their tails at us and flapping their feet sideways. A porcupine ducked behind a log. An otter annoyingly peered at us as he tried to sleep in a glass den.
The lynxes’ stopped us all dead in our tracks. A mother wildcat slept, just out of sight, in a log, while her three cubs playfully competed for a brown paper bag. Their paws were the size of our hands but they acted just like house cats, one of them found the highest ledge and engaged us in a challenging staring contest through the glass. The others scrambled over ledges and logs leading each other on and pouncing at the most opportune moments.
When we were finally able to bring ourselves to move on, wanting to take the lynxes with us, we found ourselves right in the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence. There were birds flying directly over our heads and bobbing in the water. There were little tide pools with starfish and the biggest lobster I have ever seen.
Finally we came upon the Arctic room. There must have been over 20 penguins. Some scrunched against the walls, others lay flat on their tummies with their fat bulging over the sides. They regarded us haughtily as they waddled from water to ledge.
I could have taken Earth Science back in Vermont. I could have sat in a lab and read out of a textbook. I don’t know, I guess this is just cooler. Going to the Biodome made me feel like a kid again.
– Hailey Neal, Professional Writing Major, Spring 2014