I was digging around in my PC the other day and came across a memorable little video I’d totally forgotten about.
A few years ago my superior half, Dorian, got trapped on an ice floe in
the Arctic… no wait, Antarctica… shoot, that’s not right either. We’ll cover that in a moment. She was just wandering around town one day and got trapped on an ice floe somewhere, and all these cool (literally!) magical creatures of the ice came to her rescue!
Good thing I was there with my camera/phone to document this amazing feat…
Okay, time to come clean here…
This is a virtual reality set-up at the wonderful AQUARIUM OF THE BAY on Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf right here in San Francisco. The animals weren’t really there. It’s an amazing technological display, and Dorian was actually standing on a floor area marked out in the shape of the ice floe. I wasn’t recording her directly, I was recording the virtual display image that was broadcast on a huge screen about 30 feet in front of her.
It’s kind of hard to describe this unless you’ve seen it in person, but I’ll try my darndest here. Notice how Dorian looks up more than she looks at the actual animals, it’s because she too is looking up at the screen.
Before I elaborate on that any further, I need to address something that might be puzzling to a few science and animal types who are wondering how polar bears, penguins, seals, and orcas (aka killer whales) happen to all come together in one place to pull off such a feat.
Since polar bears are only found in the Arctic, and penguins in the Antarctic, either the waddle of penguins or the gigantic polar bear swam a helluva long way – just about 12.5 THOUSAND MILES – to hang out with Dorian. That’s just how awesome she is. And yes, I said a waddle of penguins. When they’re waddling around on land, even if it’s icy land, they’re known as a waddle, a colony, or a rookery. I went with ‘waddle’ because it’s funny.
Some would argue that a group of penguins is called a ‘tuxedo,’ but some would not, despite the fact that that’s even funnier than a ‘waddle.’ I just don’t care for arguing about tuxedo clad birds who waddle around on ice and float in rafts.
Oh yeah, If penguins are floating around in the water on their backs, it’s known as ‘a raft of penguins.’ That’s even funnier, and Dorian could have really used a raft at that moment.
Some of you are probably wondering about the orcas and the seals, right? Well, from what I know, I guess they could have been there, since they hang out in more places around the oceanic parts of the globe than those polar bears and penguins. But there’s a boat load of different species to the seals, and even variations of orcas, so it really depends on what kind you’re talking about.
The type of seals you see in the video are the Vitualaticus Sealitico, from the Latin for ‘virtual reality seals,’ and the orcas are escapees from SeaWorld who got tired of being circus clowns. They just swam north from San Diego for about a week and found a nice lady in distress on an ice floe in a spare room on a pier in a building at Fisherman’s Wharf.
If you watched the video above, and if you didn’t, then why the heck not, you may have noticed that the penguins didn’t show up until the polar bear was gone, and they promptly scrammed just before the seals and orcas came along.
This is because it was around lunch time, and the orcas just love a good penguin entree with a shrimp cocktail on the side. Polar bears would eat penguins if they weren’t over twelve thousand miles away, and sadly, they found that’s outside the Door Dash delivery range.
As for seals, umm, well… seems they have a quirky tendency to eat a penguin after having, uh… relations with the poor creature. So basically a penguin should never date a seal.
When I was working for Big Bus Tours of San Francisco as a guide we’d get certain perks such as free entry to attractions and museums. We had a deal with the Aquarium Of The Bay too, so Big Bus employees were invited to a private party to check out the new VR display, but they didn’t have it dressed up yet as it would later appear for the regular guests. The room was just a big private room and the VR equipment was in DEMO mode. That’s why you see chairs, a trashcan and various other items you probably won’t find just laying around in the Arctic or Antarctic, or whatever in the name of King Neptune this was.
The ‘ice floe’ was marked out on the cement floor with tape, with a camera mounted about 20 feet up, pointed down at it. The projector was pointed at the screen, and if you stood on the taped-off area it would project your image onto it.
In the VR system, the superimposed ice-flow and animals were playing on a loop, starting with the polar bear. Everyone was taking turns standing on the thing and reacting with the animals as you see Dorian doing. On the marked out area they were not really there, so you had to try and figure out where they were in front of you or to the side.
It was really fun, unless some little kid or lady walked behind or under you and like, totally ruined the illusion.
They had invited us to the party because we were a tour company and they wanted to get us to send guests there after it officially opened a few weeks later. Sadly, she and I never made it back in as regular guests to see what it looked like all cleaned up. We always meant to, but thanks to COVID-19 I no longer work for Big Bus Tours because tourists stopped visiting our city, so the company sold all their tour buses and got a job driving an UBER.
Just kidding, they still have the buses, somewhere. Probably stored in an ice cave in the Antarctic.
You can follow the fine folks at Aquarium Of The Bay along with their penguins and assorted other animal types on TWITTER. Ask them if the VR display is all set-up now, and when they say it is, but they’re not reopened yet, ask them when they’ll fling the doors open and let you frolic on ice floes. It’s really fun until that little kid walks by, looking like a human head sliding around on the ice.