As a fan of deep sea creatures and the mysteries of the abyss, I entered The Deep exhibition at the ArtScience Museum with great expectations - And I was not disappointed.
When first entering the exhibition, you will be greeted by a near pitch-black room. In front of you plays a video that sets the mood for your journey - clips of strange and bizarre creatures swimming in the blackness of the abyss, lighting up their world with bioluminescence.
Of course, if you are already a fan of the deep, such videos would be quite familiar. Was that all the exhibition had to offer? Certainly not. A few steps past the screen will unveil the reason as to why The Deep is touted by its curator, Claire Nouvian, as a one-of-a-kind exhibition.
Seven specimens of deep sea creatures housed in their display cases lay frozen in time. While no longer living, this is probably as close as you can get to witnessing them in a physical space without having to dive down to the deadly depths.
54 specimens of abyssal creatures are showcased throughout the eight zones of the exhibits. They are accompanied by 67 images of sea fauna, living fossils and bioluminescent creatures, some photographed for the very first time.
Adding to the immersive experience is the eerie background music that gives you a heightened sense of mystery and suspense as you 'dive deeper' into the exhibition. From 150 metres below sea level to the bottom of the ocean, you will be awed by the presence of the specimens as well as the facts they habour.
Most of you may wonder how these deep sea creatures were brought up from the depths and preserved in such great conditions. Some were salvaged after being accidentally caught on fishing nets, others were brought up to the surface for research purposes after scientists and biologists ventured to the depths using Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs). To counter the effects of depressurisation, these UUVs ascended at an slow and steady rate so that the fragile bodies of the deep do not get deformed by the sudden change in pressure.
The rest of the specimens were loaned to the exhibition by generous individuals and organisations, all of whom Claire Nouvian and her team had earned through work done on the book that preceded the exhibition called "The Deep: he Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss", in which many experts of the field commented on the accurate descriptions and diligent research done to produce it.
Some of these loaned specimens are rare and even unique. The photo of Kroyer's deep-sea anglerfish seen above is the only one of its kind due to its size. If you are headed to the exhibit, look out for another rare characteristic around the bottom of the specimen's belly. You will be able to see a limb-like attachment, which is actually a male anglerfish attaching itself to his massive female counterpart and fusing to her body as part of their strange relationship.
Completing this experience is The Deep app (available for down on the App Store and Google Play) that transforms your mobile device into an audio guide that accompanies you on your journey through the exhibition.
I learned a whole lot about the ocean through my two hour journey. I also noticed that those who had dedicated their lives exploring the depths of the ocean have quite a sense of humor and enjoy simplicity, giving names like Spiky Oreo, Smooth Oreo, Deep-sea Lizardfish and Flapjack Devilfish (which is actually an octopus?).
I also learned that our preference of what we consume from the ocean can change dramatically depending on supply. I was surprised to learn that Bluefin Tunas, which can be sold for more than a million dollars, used to be rejected as bycatch, meaning that they are considered worthless and would be thrown away when caught.
This was described on a panel accompanying the Rabbitfish. A fish that is generally not found above 300 metres and whose sharp dorsal spine is venomous. While it used to be bycatch, the decline of surface fish had made the rabbitfish more acceptable to be served at dinner tables in Europe.
This single panel impacted me greatly as it made me realise that in the absence of a responsibility stance to maintain the ecosystem that we venture to learn about, even the inhabitants of the inhospitable abyss will fall into the greedy hands of humanity, much like the case of the Orange Roughy.
Moving on, while the exhibition has a mini-theatre that showcases a 13 and a half minute long montage of deep sea exploration and the station where you can create your own angler fish for S$4, it is definitely not an exhibition that you can call interactivity.
But with such an immersive experience, you would not even notice it unless you willfully find faults with it such as this instance in which I report on the experience with professional criticism.
I would like to end of this review by encouraging you to play the clip available at the final zone, which is a tribute to Claire Nouvian, who I had earlier mentioned is the curator of The Deep exhibition and whose efforts to raise public awareness about the need to conserve the deep sea ecosystem have made The Deep possible.
There are four clips of her being interviewed about various topics, ranging from talking about the exhibition itself to the negative effects of bottom trawling. In each clip, she speaks with a passion that I cannot explain objectively. I can just feel it through her fluent explanation on each four topics and I believe you will too.
The Deep will run from now till 27 October 2015 at the ArtScience Museum. For ticket prices and other information, please visit http://www.marinabaysands.com/museum/the-deep.html.
TIP: I highly recommended visit the exhibition on Sunday for an special storytelling session by Master Storyteller, JKamini Ramachandran, who would takes you on a journey to the wonderful kingdoms below the seas every Sunday at 2.30pm, 3.30pm and 4.30pm till the end of July.