Exploring marine life at Vietnam’s largest museum of sea creatures

Tuesday, 2017-02-21 17:15:25
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Visitors admire the skeleton of a humpback whale, which is 18 metres in length and 10 tonnes in weight, on display at the National Oceanographic Museum of Vietnam
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NDO—Covering a total area of around 5,000m2 in the port district of Cau Da in the coastal city of Nha Trang, the National Oceanographic Museum of Vietnam provides visitors with amazing and vivid insight into marine life. The museum displays more than 22,000 specimens of 5,000 marine species, including rare marine mammals.

The museum is under the management of the Institute of Oceanography, which was established in 1923 by the French. Since 1952, the institute has become a research institute under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology.

Starting as a room to preserve and display specimens, the museum’s collection has been enriched and supplemented over the past 100 years or so, making if largest museum of sea creatures in Vietnam with rich history and value.

Visiting the aquarium, visitors can discover a colourful world of 300 rare and valuable sea creatures, such as crabs, sharks, rays, angelfish, sea cucumbers, starfish, sea urchins, corals and crayfish. The aquarium is also served as a rescue station for sea animals, such as sea turtles and seals that got lost in the course of their travels or were trapped by fishing nets.

The life history, typical behaviours and interesting facts about the creatures are introduced to visitors in both Vietnamese and English, helping nature-lovers enrich their knowledge about the species. For example, the red lionfish has large, venomous spines that protrude from the body, which are used purely for defence. The stonefish can camouflage itself with a grey and mottled colour similar to the colour of a stone. The seahorse can swim horizontally. The horseshoe crab is commonly known by biologists around the world as a living fossil because it has remained practically unchanged in terms of shape and size for millions of years.

What makes the museum attractive for visitors is its showroom, where 20,000 samples of 5,000 sea creatures, which were collected from Vietnam’s sea and surrounding waters, are on display. They include specimens of large sea animals, such as a 6m-long whale shark, a giant clam 145kg in weight, a Dugong skeleton found in November 1997 at Lo Voi Beach (Con Dao Island), a skeleton of a humpback whale skeleton—18 metres in length and 18 tonnes in weight—which was excavated in the Red River Delta after being buried underground for 200 years.

The samples are preserved carefully and classified methodologically to make it easy for management as well as scientific reference and researches. Some of them are newly discovered by scientists or first-seen in Vietnam’s marine ecosystem. Therefore, they have significantly contributed to measuring the biodiversity of Vietnam’s waters and to conducting taxonomic research in the country.

In another showroom, on display are hundreds of samples of species, biography, geography and living creatures seen in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelagos, which have been collected after fact-finding and survey trips by the Institute of Oceanography’s officers to the two archipelagos. The samples together with documents recently went on display at an exhibition held by the museum at the end of 2016 to introduce visitors to marine resources in Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.

In recent years, the museum have also hosted exhibitions to update the public on achievements of Vietnam’s marine science while presenting specific topics such as sharks, sea turtles, fishing tools and the Nghinh Ong (whale worshipping) festival.

According to Nguyen Thi My Ngan, Head of Communications and Environmental Education Office at under the Institute of Oceanography, the museum has welcomed increasing number of visitors year on year. The museum welcomed over 300,000 and 350,000 visitors in 2013 and 2015, respectively. The number increased to 360,000 in 2016, including 50,000 foreigners.

As a facility belonging to a research institute, the museum has huge advantage, as it has access to information on the most recent oceanographic discoveries. It has established itself as a trustworthy destination for nature- and ocean-lovers, whose questions about various topics will be answered by scientists at the institute. If it receives proper investment to enhance its facilities and human resources, it is possible that the museum will become one of the leading oceanographic museums in the region.