Oceanographic Instute of Monaco

Oceanographic Instute of Monaco

 

Introduction :

Monaco, its Rock, its splendours… Strolling in the old town, after visiting the Cathedral, I went to visit the Oceanographic Museum whose official website (in French) is particularly well documented, talking about current and upcoming exhibitions, as well as activities that are being put in place at periods of school holidays among others.
A remarkable point : the facebook page of the Oceanographic Museum (in French) has plenty of informations because you can find pictures and informations from the past until today, simply by following the time-line of the profile page.
The museum has 6 000 marine species and believe me, I’ve pictured a lot … So I made a drastic selection in order to give you a light presentation.

 

Location :

 

 

History of the Oceanographic Instute of Monaco :

So let’s begin, oh surprise, by the history of the Institute:
In 1898 the foundations were dug on the cliff of the seaside.
The 25th April, 1899, a ceremony was made for the symbolic laying of the first stone.
In 1900 a part is opened and its first director was appointed.
In 1906 the name was given to the structure: “The Oceanographic Institute, Foundation Prince Albert 1th of Monaco.”
The 29th of March, 1910, the Museum was officially opened and referred as “the Temple of the Sea”. Were exposed by Prince Albert 1st all the specimens from his campaigns, paintings and drawings, as well as art objects related to the sea.
From 1925, this top level Oceanographic Museum is the first in the world to develop aquarium with underwater landscapes where animals are presented in a setting as close as possible to natural conditions.
From 1957 to 1988, the famous Captain Cousteau was appointed director of the museum (he was the third to have this title).
In 1989, one of the first coral farms in the world is created in order to develop a mission of protection and preservation of the marine heritage. It is one of the main missions the Museum give to itself.
Every year the team composed of professionals and volunteers, continue to offer small and large events, either for kids and adults.

 

Musée Océanographique - Façade

 

 

Architecture of the Oceanographic Instute of Monaco :

The architecture of the museum is impressive. Coming out of the car park, we were on the seaside, on the back of the museum. Usually, we observe that architecture efforts are focused on the frontside of a building. What a surprise to discover a wonderful work even in the backside!
To quote Prince Albert 1th during his inauguration speech: “Here, gentlemen, you see it, the Monegasque ground has given the rise of a proud and inviolable temple dedicated to the new deity who reigns over the intellects”.
The Prince was a sailor, and sailors see the land by the sea. What could be more normal, in the end, that he orders the seaside to be equally impressive?
On the Seaside, the building reaches a height of 85m and it takes a length of 100m. It has 5 levels of rooms with more than generous proportions since there is in total 6000m² of exhibition space open to the public.

 

Musée Océanographique - Côté mer

 

 

My visit of the Oceanographic Instute of Monaco :

One of the facilities is called the Shark Lagoon.
It is a huge aquarium in which a lagoon has been recreated and you can see an entire ecosystem including several species of sharks, evolving together. The lights are great and we can observe a wide variety of fishes. Benches are strategically placed and give an irresistible desire to sit down to indulge in pure and simple contemplation of this underwater world really well recreated.

Musée Océanographique - Lagon des requins
The Tropical Seas Room has dozens of aquarium each containing one or more typical species, both of underwater flora and wildlife. You can admire species of phosphorescent sea anemones and a dizzying amount of fishes from tropical seas and lagoons. I also recognized some I crossed in “La Réunion Island” in my little snorkelling escapades.

 

Musée Océanographique - Anémone

 

 

In this Tropical Seas Room, we cross varieties of colourful fishes, killers or harmless, with fins, wings, and even legs!
Biology’s scientists posed as a base that life has oceanic origin. Well, facing these species that seem coming straight out of science fiction movies, I am willing to believe.
Looking at flying fish that wave their wings after jumping out of the water. Watching a fish landing on the sand and unfolding its legs to walk calmly on it, sucking greedily small edible things around. Trying to understand how this one can have both eyes on the same side of the head. Taking attention of this other one hiding in anemone’s poisonous arms. Counting the number of seahorses clinging to a branch and being lulled by the flow of water. Observing the deadly darts of the stone fish… This is how I become again a child, amazed by nature, blissful by this beauty.
Some men dedicate their lives to the ocean, this museum helps me understand the pleasure that drives them.

 

Musée Océanographique - Poisson

 

 

The roof of the museum is a large terrace offering panoramic views over the city of Monaco and the surrounding area. During the school holidays many recreational activities, often for children, are put in place. You will undoubtedly come across some far from shy seagulls opening their beaks in the innocent hope that you give them a fish (it is there actually people doing it? Because they are really asking!).

 

Musée Océanographique - Terrasse

 

 

The Albert 1th Hall presents historical collections of objects and pieces of art created from elements from the sea. Seashells, nacre, corals, pearls or skeletons of shellfish ; everything is used to fashion marine display, characters, flowers, jewellery and other items that are evidence of the cultural importance of the sea in the past.
In this Hall, there is also a reconstitution of the scientific observation cabin of the Prince’s ship, as well as a range of documents on which the observations on the species found and caught were archived. It is also possible to see vintage photos, taken in three dimensions, in wooden boxes. 3D pictures old of a century… It makes us wonder about the marketing discourse from some companies selling 3D technology : “Innovation is our business” haha​​, maybe it’s time to change business then?

 

Musée Océanographique - Cabine

 

 

Then comes the Whale Room. It contains an assortment of perfectly preserved skeletons, staged on racks or hung from the ceiling. The masterpiece is a whale of 18m long, weighing 2.8 tons and seeming to float in the space. There are thirteen skeletons in all, and the room is so large that we don’t even notice it..

 

Musée Océanographique - Salle de la Baleine

 

 

Between the two previous room is the Oceanomania. It is a curiosity display installed as a temporary exposition in 2011. But view to the understandable success of such a set witch is the largest collection of historical artefacts of the marine world, the Oceanographic Museum decided to make it permanent. I do not hide it, this seems to me a very good idea because this collection is beautiful and rich of History.
On the left the Nature, on the right the Man who wants to conquer this universe. The pieces presented are treasures of World Heritage. Between the naturalized polar bear, and the first scuba diving suit, it is a prodigious number of unique elements and very well preserved that is offered to our sight.

 

Musée Océanographique - Océanomania

 

 

The Temple of the Sea, this unique and unrivalled testimony about the marine world and the history of its exploration, it is to the passion and initiative of Prince Albert 1th that Humanity owe it.
In the Salon d’Honneur is his statue. We don’t see the stature of a Prince who, as so often in history, likes to show himself in parade clothes with a dominant look and the hand on the scabbard. No, we see the stature of a man, a lover of science and passionate of the sea, a curious gaze into the distance, his binoculars in hand, leaning on the railing of the boat that we imagine sailing in one of the 28 scientific expeditions he financed and led.

 

Musée Océanographique - Prince Albert 1er

 

 

My conclusion about the Oceanographic Instute of Monaco :

So there is no surprise, I confess that I loved this museum. We visited it in the middle of the week, out of school holidays time, there was only one other couple with us. In other words the museum was to us, empty and silent rooms, but filled with richness and History.
This Oceanographic Museum is a must to visit.