An Open Letter to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Tentacles Exhibit

Dear (The Monterey Bay Aquarium) Tentacles (Exhibit),

I know you will be leaving us in just…really, a couple days, at this point. On September 5th, 2022, you will end your eight-year run. And I will narrowly miss my window of opportunity to say goodbye! I’m in Wales for several more weeks, so I won’t have the option to say goodbye in person, so this is the best I can do.

Tentacles had a knack for giving me my first real-life look at animals that ranked at the top of my favorites list…and welcoming me back year after year to revisit the little critters that stole my heart.

I remember the first time, way back in 2014, that I made my way to the aquarium to see Tentacles–at the time, the experience was complete with the cephalopod arms reaching out of the roof! At first, I thought the nautiluses were fake–it blew my young mind that these animals I’d heard so much about could actually be there, right in front of me.

And we hadn’t even gotten to the flamboyant cuttlefish yet!

I remember the very moment I saw them in their tank, in real life for the first time since practically memorizing the NOVA documentary “Kings of Cuttlefish,” which introduced me to their fascinating, tiny selves. My mother remembers seeing the flamboyant cuttlefish too…for a very long time, as she sat on the bench next to them waiting for me to be satisfied with my level of cuttlefish observation.

I would return to that bench years later, as a student at UCSC, to study for my physics final. I cannot properly communicate how many times I heard the pun “oh, cuttlefish! Do they like to cuddle?” as I sat there.

(SCC being the Science Community Center at my community college–a fantastic place to work!)

This isn’t even to mention all the adorable young generations of flamboyant cuttlefish I’ve witnessed…

I am eternally grateful that the gorgeous music of Tentacles is available on the Internet–as well as grateful to its incredibly talented creator, Douglas Morton. The amount of time I’ve spent listening to that music while staring at various cephalopods cannot be calculated, so it goes without saying that I have a deep attachment to the music itself. It never fails to bring a smile to my face and remind me of the precious cephalopods I’ve seen soundtracked to that music.

Reef squid!

I was sick for my birthday in 2017. We were going to go to the aquarium with my grandparents for my birthday, but that was definitely a bad idea because I was pretty substantially sick, so we waited it out a week. This turned out to be an excellent decision.

There had been whispers of a flapjack octopus at the aquarium that week and I hoped beyond hope that it would stick around until I was able to see it.

As per usual, the instant we got to the aquarium, I led the pack directly to Tentacles. I forged ahead, leaving everyone behind, just wanting to see if my favorite adorable cephalopod was there.

And it was!! There was a creature I’d only seen in videos, bathed in red light to keep it calm, having the time of its little life rising to the surface and sinking back down.

That little octopus would go on to grace my phone’s lock screen for over four years!

Thank you, Tentacles, for all the cephalopods you’ve shown me and all the memories you’ve left with me over the last eight years. I will miss you–you and your steampunk art, old movie clips, beautiful soundtrack…and most of all, your cephalopods.

~ Emma