A giant crane sweeps across Seattle's waterfront sky, taking one bite after another out of an aging structure.
This is not a viaduct project; this is a major remodel for harbor seals. The Seattle Aquarium is taking out the old chain link enclosed seal exhibit and replacing it with a new glass enclosure.
The indoor/outdoor exhibit will allow visitors to get a nose-to-nose view of the harbor seals as they race back, forth, up and down inside an expanded and deeper pool.
A narrow finger pier used to lead to the fence where visitors could only look down on the seals. Now they will see them eye to eye.
The project also offers seating for large groups attending lectures or field trips. And, since the aquarium is all about education, it will use the expansion as a teaching opportunity.
During the pile driving phase of the project, the aquarium must monitor Elliott Bay for any signs of endangered marine mammals that could be harmed by the loud underwater activity. So they are recruiting volunteers who they will be arm with spotting scopes and deploy at several selected areas around the sound.
If they see an endangered mammal, an orca, or steller sea lion for example, they will report it and construction will cease until the animals leave the area.
But the team will also record sightings of any other sea mammals to provide an updated census for scientists studying Puget Sound.
The aquarium will remain open during the project which should be complete by next spring.