Great Lakes Aquarium breaks ground on a new exhibit

By KBJR News 1

November 8, 2013 Updated Nov 8, 2013 at 12:42 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth has had it's share of financial difficulties since it opened.

However, on Thursday the aquarium held a symbolic groundbreaking for its most ambitious exhibit since the facility's opening, with the hopes of bringing in more business.

The Masters of Disguise exhibit was officially closed on Thursday, to make room for construction of the new "Shipwrecks Alive!" exhibit.

"The fact that they're really putting effort into having new exhibits and more interactive exhibits I think is an indication that they're getting the feedback from the public and trying to make an even better facility," said Duluth Mayor Don Ness.

... And as the aquarium prepares for the change so do some of the fish.

Many fish from the old display are being shipped to another aquarium in Louisiana, in order to make the new exhibit as accurate as possible in displaying fish that are from this region.

"A lot of times we receive trades. For these fish we actually did receive a couple of Pacific fish in exchange," said Barb Kellerman, senior aquarist at the aquarium.

The aquarium's education director says the experience of shipwreck diving is popular on the Great Lakes.

That prompted their decision to move forward with the new exhibit which will tell the story of what happens after these vessels submerge, and their impact on the eco-system.

"We really wanted to talk about how life starts to use this base, how they become part of the ecosystem, how they don't become part of the ecosystem, how much of that remains... and looking at that in the context of Lake Superior, but then also some other really great contrasting examples from around the world and throughout time," said Sarah Erickson, the aquarium's education director.

Aquarium workers say it's exciting for the facility to be doing something different.

"This new exhibit is definitely the largest salt water exhibit that we've ever had here and we're going to be able to display some shark species probably, and some large fish species. Just to be able to have a big enough tank to kind of do some really cool stuff is really exciting," said Kellerman.

Construction for the project will continue throughout the winter.

The new exhibit will cost $423,000 dollars and is scheduled to open in July of 2014.

Elsa Robins