Dubious Dubai Aquarium Bursts At The Seams



In a serious overdose of Schadenfreude, all the blogs and papers are going nuts about a leak in the Dubai aquarium. The usually brilliant and dead-on Blair Kamin calls it "Dubai's next blooper" and compares it to the other recent Dubai dubiousness:

First came last year's debt crisis humbled the once high-flying Persian Gulf emirate and slowed the construction of scores of skyscrapers. Then, this month, the observatory at the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, had to be shut down following an electrical malfunction. Now, according to news reports, a leak in the giant aquarium at the mega-mall next to the supertall skyscraper has forced the mall to be evacuated.

Really, this is not quite in the same ballpark. It is a silicone joint failure, and not even in the dramatic tunnel, just in a framed opening.

It is true, the video is quite dramatic, bringing back memories of the original Poseidon Adventure, and The Day After Tomorrow, Charlton Heston in Earthquake and Deep Impact,


not to mention the Korean Classic Tidal Wave.


And there is no question, if they had not closed down the mall and called in every fire truck in the city, they would have been blamed for ignoring the problem.

I was all set to do a great post about how they should have used transparent aluminum that was invented back in, like 1985


and put in pictures of George and Gracie:


But really, there is not much of a story here, this could have happened anywhere; silicone joints fail and these things happen, but the water cannot run out fast enough to destroy the aquarium and kill the animals if there is any modicum of supervision.


I can only say this because I did spend some time working on the design of an aquarium a decade or so ago with the very talented Andrew Frontini, and learned a bit about the technologies. I also learned enough to know that it is a lousy idea, it is not green, we should be giving our kids a video instead of spending millions to build these artificial environments where it is a constant struggle to keep everything in balance to maintain life support for these amazing creatures. After spending a year trying do design one, I now don't think they should exist.


The technology is spectacular, the wonders they do with acrylics in making these tunnels is amazing, but after visiting aquaria from Osaka to California to New Orleans to Boston, I have become convinced that it is cruel and it is wrong. But Dubai is no better or no worse than any others, and when it comes to this particular leak, there is nothing to see here, move along.