The Deep

mangrove swampThe Deep is a public aquarium in the city of Kingston-upon-Hull (often referred to simply as Hull) in East Yorkshire, and it’s a great place for a family day out.

Location of The Deep in Hull
Base map of East Yorkshire courtesy of Wikipedia

The building was designed by world class architects, Sir Terry Farrell and Partners and opened in 2002. Perched right on the confluence of the River Hull and the Humber estuary, it still looks pretty modern today. It’s 5 minutes walk from Hull Marina and a short distance from the city centre.

Our visit to The Deep was on a rainy day last year and we’re very glad we went when we did, especially as we’d been considering going for some time. Unfortunately, like so many museums, parks and historic sites we like to visit, the aquarium has been closed since March this year due to Covid-19. We can only hope this wonderfully educational resource can survive financially to continue in the future.

Ocean knowledge

The journey through the aquarium begins with taking either the scenic lift or the stairs – eight flights of them – up to the third floor, where the main cafe (Castaways) is located. We chose the stairs (and my knees will  never forgive me). The ‘scenic lift’ is very very popular and queues to get in it were quite long when we were there.

The winding route down takes us through over 4 billion years of ocean history.

Looking down at the visitors The first display is The Awakening Earth, which comprises hands-on activities and 4D screens showing creatures that would have been swimming around in the oceans up to 400 million years ago. These included Dunkleosteus (370 m years ago) Ichthyosaur (240 m years ago) and Xiphactinus (80 m years ago).

There are also living starfish to see, a species which appeared on Earth around 450 m years ago. Starfish typically have five arms but some have up to forty! Those we saw all had only five:

This freshwater creature was also around almost 400 m years ago. It is called a tiktaalik and it grew to 3m in length, had sharp teeth and looked like a cross between a fish and a crocodile. It was, however, technically a fish and it lived on a continent called Laurentia, which was around the equator and had a warm climate.

Ancient seas 2

The Lagoon of Light is a lovely display, being an open  stretch of  blue, tropical water filled with aquatic life found in a mangrove lagoon. Hundreds of colourful, tropical fish, rays and small sharks delight all visitors and are particularly popular with children.

There are information boards along the route, some specifically aimed at children, others for older visitors. They are all so useful and informative, like these about the importance of mangrove swamps:

There are also smaller tanks with living sea creatures of all types from specific environments of today, including Coral Reefs.

Coral 11

Lovely and colourful, and home to 25% of marine life on Earth, the variety of life on coral reefs is equal to that of the Amazon rainforest. It includes tiny plankton to predatory sharks  – all of which depend upon each other for survival. Worryingly, coral is very sensitive to environmental change, pollution and overfishing and the future of these fabulous reefs remains severely threatened.

The Kingdom of Ice is intended to give visitors a glimpse of  life in the polar realm and its importance to the ocean food chains, global warming, ocean acidification and so on.  The Gentoo penguins proved popular with adults and children alike and it was difficult to get close enough to the glass to take photos. We managed a few in the end.

There are so many different ocean environments as well as displays of some species in the Amazon Flooded Forest to visit. To show them all here would mean a very long post, so here are a few random photos, including a few information boards. There are tanks full of clown fish for all Nemo fans to enjoy, but the little fish must have been hiding in the anemones when we were there. Not surprisingly, another name for them is anemonefish. (The photo of the information board below is rather blurred, unfortunately.) At feeding times, the hiding clown fish readily emerge from amongst the stinging tentacles.

The main tank, called The Endless Ocean, fills the centre of the building, extending from the ground floor to the top, and can be viewed through large ‘windows’ on several levels, including an underwater viewing tunnel. The tank is filled with 550,000 imperial gallons of water (660,000 US) and 87 tons of salt. A variety of sharks can be seen, including White tip, Grey reef sharks and Zebra sharks, rays, and the only pair of Green sawfish in the UK. Turtles and rays swim past regularly, too. And although it wasn’t feeding time when we took these photos, we caught a glimpse of a diver in the tank, too.

The Endless Ocean can also be viewed from the Tunnel, which is 10 m below the surface. The tunnel is made is 6 inch thick acrylic and can take the weight of three elephants. It was very hard to take photos through, so the few we took aren’t very clear:

The Deep is a wonderful place for a day out, or for anyone on holiday in the East Yorkshire area. Children are fascinated by it and spend lots of time on the hands-on activities. There are cafes and picnic areas (some outside for when the weather is good). On rainy days the aquarium does get quite packed but it all adds to the fun. We had a great day there and learned a lot about the oceans and some of the hundreds of species that live in them.

Endless Oceans Viewing Window

The following quote from the ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ website sums up the objectives of The Deep:

The Deep is an environmental and conservation charity, not run for profit, and is dedicated to increasing the knowledge and interest of the world’s oceans through its participation in vital research and conservation schemes around the world.


14 thoughts on “The Deep

  1. This reminds me that I never think of enjoying aquariums and then when I do go, I always love them. All those fascinating sea creatures! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a display of mangrove trees like that though, that’s super interesting.

    I wonder, how do they have all those fish in that big middle space and the big ones aren’t eating the little ones?

    1. We put off visiting this aquarium for years, Joy, thinking it would be really boring ‘just looking at fish’! I should have known that modern museums and educational sites are far from boring. We really loved seeing all those fish! Lol. I was really impressed with the Lagoon of Light and the display of mangroves. It looks so attractive, too. As to the the big fish not eating the little fish, I think they’re simply too well fed. The sharks in The Endless Ocean are all reared from tiny ones and they get used to being regularly fed by the divers. I can’t really think of another reason. Talking about sharks, I believe they’ve tried a couple of times, unsuccessfully, to rear a Great White. Just as well, in my book, or you wouldn’t get me near the place. Shark phobia, or what…?

      1. Oh yes, the modern aquariums are gorgeous! I have no excuse, having been to several by now and always enjoying them. One here on the west coast has a shallow pool where you can actually touch manta rays as they swim by — so cool! And also “petting ponds” where you can touch other slimy and spiky things, like sea cucumbers and starfish, I think. Not fish, obviously, whose scales wouldn’t stand being touched. And very closely supervised by the staff. Being able to see them up close like that is really interesting. I would love to see a Great White, but it seems to me like they’d be too large to fit. If they even had a pool (or whole bay) that was big enough, it would probably be too far away on the other side half the time for the viewers to spot it. With those larger fish (and animals) I much prefer watching nature documentaries where some brave soul with excellent video skills can be me the up-close view of the creature in the wild.

    1. It sounds as though you’ve been there too, Peter. You’re right about tourists – they’re a real pain. 😀 Oddly enough, when we’re out and about, we don’t think of ourselves as tourists., do we? I admit, the day we were at The Deep it was packed, as it always is when it rains, according to one of the assistants in the entrance. I suppose it stands to reason that everyone seeks out indoor places to visit when it’s wet.

    1. I do too, now, Peggy. The Deep completely changed my mind about aquariums, which I’d always thought would be boring. I’d like to go again sometime, just to digest more of the wonderful information about so many sea creatures.

  2. What a wonderful aquarium! I too hope that it survives financially until things really get going again. The first bits of your post reminded me so much of the recent online course I took on Extinctions: Past and Present. Much of the course involved evolution, so creatures like the tiktaalik are familiar to me from that class. I really like the Deep’s architecture, although I think I would have rather waited in line for the lift rather than climbing 8 flights of stairs. You are a hardier soul than I am! 🙂

    1. Thanks Timi. Yes, I should think the visuals in this aquarium would complement your course very well. I’m impressed that you knew what a tiktaalik was! I’d come across it in my course on Evolution years ago and was pleased to be reminded of it during our visit. The creature is generally thought to be mid-way along the evolutionary route of amphibians from fish – and a step onto land. I’m glad you could see things to relate to in my post. As for those stairs… a year on and I’m certain I’d never make the climb now! 😀

  3. Thank you for reading, Arv, The Deep is a wonderful place to visit for anyone interested in marine biology or conservation – or in the evolution of life on Earth. Children just love the colourful displays and interesting ancient species, as well as the living species in the many tanks and enclosures.

    1. There were lots of lovely, colouful species in this aquarium, Ineke. Many of them were good at hiding in the coral or anemones. I agree, it’s fun watching them all. I’m glad you enjoyed reading. ❤

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