Thursday, May 27, 2010

Montreal: Day 2

Montreal has a collection of four massive "museums" that are world famous. Three of these - The Biodome, Insectarium, and Botanical Gardens - are all located in Olympic Park around the Olympic Stadium from the 1976 Summer Olympics. Exploring these museums was my goal for today.

Typically I sleep in and check my e-mails, etc. in the morning, but not today. In order to give myself the best chance to explore all three of the aforementioned Olympic Park attractions in the one afternoon available to me, I was on the subway by 9:10 AM, and at the Biodome by 9:30.

The Biodome contains four examples of different habitats: a tropical rain forest, the Laurentian forest of Quebec, the Arctic/Antarctic poles, and the St. Lawrence River marine ecosystem.

By far the largest of the four Biodome habitats is the tropical forest. Measuring 2.6 square kms, the habitat has a sticky 70% humidity which was hard to take, but this merely corresponds to the driest time of the year in an actual rain forest.

(The dreaded poison arrow frog. So poisonous, it does not fear being eaten, but rather sits out in the open, croaking loudly to warn would be attackers to stay clear.)

The next habitat was the pleasantly cool and relatively arid Laurentian Forest climate. 1.5 square kms in size, the Biodome's Laurentian habitat contains a collection of both coniferous and deciduous trees, just like the real Laurentian. With its 23 degree centigrade temperature in summer, it also feels like walking off a hot street into an air conditioned store, compared to the 28 degree tropical forest habitat and the dangerously warm 35 degree Montreal weather outside.

(How many Canadian lynx are watching you?)

Hint: Look in the top left hand corner.

(Can you see them now?)

I wish I could say I had my socks knocked off by the Arctic and St. Lawrence Marine habitats, but compared to the first two forests they kind of paled in comparison. I might also be desensitized to aquariums after spending so long in the massive, first rate aquariums of South Korea, with numerous species of sharks and rays that even swim over your head as you walk through glass tunnels under the aquarium.

(Challenge: There are four ducks in this picture. See if you can find three of them. Hint: two of the ducks are on the right sight of the picture near the wood pile.)

That said, the basin in which some of the sharks swam around contained 2.5 million Litres of sea water, and because of the net over top, the birds were free to fly around over my head. This added some excitement and novelty, making this a more "realistic" aquarium experience.

(This is less than half of the tank.)

The Polar exhibits were pretty lame, it must be said. There were just a just a bunch of penguins in two large cases. I've seen penguins in every aquarium in the world, and I'm sorry but they just are not that exciting any more.

(These aren't slippers, they're Royal Penguins - I think - tucking the babies on their backs under their wings.)

After finishing with the Biodome I took a short, but difficult walk in the stifling heat and humidity to the Insectarium. The Insectarium, opened in 1990, was the brainchild of former notary Georges Brassard who wanted to teach the world that insects are not "bugs," but a diverse, important part of our world, with unique traits and roles to play. To accomplish this, Brassard put together a massive collection of living insects, arachnids, etc., from around the world, and an even bigger collection of dead specimens from every continent.

(African Scarab beetles.)

(Beautiful brush-footed butterflies. Try and say that five times fast.)

(Beautiful Linne beetles.)

(BIG Linne beetles. Keep in mind these beetles are about six centimetres further away than my pen, because they're behind glass. In actuality this means that they're much larger than my roughly thirteen centimetre long pen.)

(Oh, what a cute little tarantula...)


(How much do you not want to have this moth fly in to your bedroom on a hot summer night?)

(I don't think this picture needs much commentary. Remember that objects behind the glass are much larger than they appear relative to the pen.)

(A tin mantis, made by children in South Africa, sitting on a tin can.)

(How many leaf insects can you find? There are at least five.)

(Giant cockroaches. Find all four.)

(Honey bees working, up close.)

(A termite queen. That's her head and thorax on the left, behind the bubble. The rest is her abdomen. This one always makes me a little squeamish.)

(Yummy! Barbecued insect moultings. Yes, of course I tried one.)

(Oh no! I caught "The Spider." This is the most fun piece of playground equipment ever invented, and a great workout too. If I become a principal of a school, my first act will be to install one of these structures in my playground.)

Behind the Insectarium is the colossal Botanical Gardens of Montreal. Originally built in 1931 as a result of the dream of one Brother Marie-Victorin, the Garden now contains over 22 000 species of plants, organized into 10 green houses and around 30 thematic gardens, and is one of the largest Botanical Gardens in the world.

(A mother duck quacks in distress over her ducklings who have all fallen down into this pool. Apparently this happens two to three times a week, and one of the staff members at the Botanical Gardens has to come and rescue them. Just another example of why babies are stupid.)

(This stone statue is supposed to represent some aspect of Tai Chi. Perhaps I needed to turn my camera upside down?)

(Highlights of the Japanese Garden.)

(Alpine Garden.)

(Two pictures from the magnificent Chinese Garden - the best garden at the Botanical Gardens by a mile.)

After staggering through the Garden for more than 2 hours, I finally reached the restaurant at the finish, where I sat under an umbrella near the stunning fountain (above), and refreshed myself with what, at that time, was the most delicious 7-Up ever. From here I went home and hid from the sun for the remainder of the day, afraid my skin would melt in the outdoor sauna otherwise.


  1. Those are some amazing pictures. I could look at every picture and watch every video made about nature. Although it is no wonder why humans have phobias of insects much smaller than us, even looking at these pictures from the comfort of Grande Prairie I had goosebumps.

  2. Another ace post, man. I saw what is regarded as the "World's Best" rock garden in Kyoto. Although it can be hard to tell, I would not at all be surprised if that one you saw was made to look like the some I saw.