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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Teles da Gama, MA

A Brief History of the Lisbon Oceanarium

What is the Lisbon Oceanarium?

The Lisbon Oceanarium, known locally as Oceanário de Lisboa, is a large aquarium in Lisbon that was built in 1998 and holds over 500 different marine species.

Lisbon Oceanarium

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Lisbon Oceanarium History

In the last major world expo of the 20th century, whose theme was ‘The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future’, the city’s championing of the ocean was established with the opening of this publicly accessible aquarium: the Lisbon Oceanarium. The global threat to our marine environment was one of the main motivations for the construction of the complex, which is dedicated to scientific research projects and the conservation of marine biodiversity.

The Oceanarium, offering a unique insight into ocean life for children and adults alike, is one of the most visited cultural attractions in the whole of Portugal. It consists of two buildings: the Oceans, a conceptual project designed by architect Peter Chermayeff that’s installed on a pier, and the new Sea Building, opened in 2011 and designed by architect Pedro Campos Costa. The two are connected by an atrium decorated with a giant panel composed of 55,000 tiles, which provides access to an exhibition and educational area.

The Oceanarium’s extensive collection of 8,000 organisms, which includes birds, mammals, fish, and other marine inhabitants, involves 30 aquariums and seven million litres of water. The main attraction on show is the central aquarium that represents the Global Ocean, with species such as sharks, barracudas, rays, tuna, and small tropical fish. It’s the equivalent of four Olympic-sized swimming pools combined. Around the central tank are four areas rich in flora and fauna that represent the marine habitats of the North Atlantic, the Antarctic Ocean, the temperate Pacific Ocean with its rocky coastlines, and the tropical Indian Ocean and its colourful coral reefs. Passing the recreated habitat of the penguins, who live for about 20 years, is an unforgettable experience, and the sea otters delight visitors with their acrobatics.

As you wander the Oceanarium's corridors you’ll likely meet Vasco, mascot of the aquarium, who teaches children to care for the marine environment, and is named, of course, after Portugal’s famous maritime explorer, Vasco da Gama.

The Lisbon Oceanarium, one of the finest in the world, encourages respect for the oceans and all their species – a vital lesson for everyone to take home with them.

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