Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February Construction Update: Coral Construction

On Central Wharf, there is still plenty of banging, buzzing and scaffolding associated with the Giant Ocean Tank renovations. But there's also a flurry of activity off-site. For example, you'll find a regular coral production line in Peter Brady's dusty studio in Charlestown right now. Brady is responsible for most of the sculptures and habitats in Aquarium exhibits, and the huge yet intricate coral reef is his latest project. And it's quite a project!

Corals in production in the Aquarium's Charlestown studio

An assortment of corals that will appear in the Giant Ocean Tank

Peter Brady in the coral production studio.

Brady and his staff are charged with making 1500 smaller pieces of coral, like the ones below. A company in California is making another 1600 pieces. These vibrant fire, brain, lettuce and star corals (just to name a few) will blanket the reef structure in the big tank, providing a brilliant backdrop to the rays, sharks, turtles and schooling fishes and hiding spaces for hundreds of other fish.

Each of these pieces were cast from real coral. The intricate mold is then filled with colored acrylic and allowed to harden. What comes out is a life-like piece of coral that you could find on a health Caribbean coral reef!

A piece of brain coral made in Brady's studio

Rather than hand painting each coral, color pigment was mixed right into the material used in casting each coral. This will result in brighter colors in the big tank, which won't fade when divers scrub algae off its surface.

They are also fabricating large pieces of coral that will provide the form of the big reef and anchor smaller, ornamental pieces. Creating these large pieces requires sculpting the piece from foam, making a mold with fiberglass and then carving out the styrofoam (so the pieces don't float in the big tank).

As soon as the windows are installed, Brady will start assembling the corals inside the tank. Everything looks good for the window installation to begin in a couple weeks. Construction is moving along right on schedule!


  1. Will there be any real coral in there? Is the living coral too difficult to maintain in that environment? Just curious :)

    1. Good question. There will not be any living coral in this exhibit because, as you mentioned, it is difficult to keep in this tank. However, you can see some beautiful living corals in the appropriately named Living Corals exhibit. Meet some of the residents!


  2. Do you have an estimated date as to when the new tank will be complete? I can't wait to see it!

    1. We can't wait to show it to you! The Giant Ocean Tank is going to be spectacular. The renovations are expected to wrap up in early summer—no exact date, that all depends on how construction goes. But as of now, everything is moving along right on schedule.

  3. When is your outdoor marine mammal exhibit open? What animals will be there?

    1. Both of our seal exhibits are open! You can see the harbor seals on the front plaza any time of day or night. You'll find sea lions and fur seals in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center around back. Hope you can come by to see these energetic animals one of these days.


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