Passages of the Deep
The Aquarium’s Passages of the Deep exhibit allows the visitor to literally immerse themselves in the ocean realm that exists right off the Oregon coast. A series of underwater walkways leads the visitor from the dark, quiet canyons of the Orford Reef, through the sparkling and teeming waters of Halibut Flats, and finally into the vast blue expanse of the Open Sea. As you pass through these three ecosystems, you symbolically move further into the Pacific Ocean, encountering vastly different animals along the way.
Located just offshore near Point Blanco, Orford Reef is a cluster of submerged haystack rock formations, only the tops of which are visible above water. Beneath the waves, the areas between these rocks form a deep reef of narrow crevasses and swaying forests of bull kelp which can reach lengths up to 100 feet (30 meters.) Far below the kelp forest, the reef provides a natural shelter from the weather and wave action, creating a stable refuge for a variety of species. One of the most predominant fish in the Orford Reef is the Rockfish, of which there are sixty different species in the Pacific Ocean. These predatory fish will often hang suspended in the still waters or hide among the drifting kelp as they stalk their unsuspecting prey.
The stormy Oregon coast is often known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific” and here is proof. In Halibut Flats, ocean life finds shelter among the sunken skeleton of a long-forgotten ship. There’s more sunlight in Halibut Flats than there was in the narrow canyons or Orford Reef and the animals are more active. In ecosystems like this one, a tremendous number of interconnected species form a vibrant underwater community. Aside from the sturgeon, lingcod, halibut and flounder that constantly patrol the shipwreck, the sandy ocean floor is a resting ground for skates, a disk-shaped species of fish related to sharks and rays. You may have to look carefully, however, as the skates’ mottled coloring is the perfect camouflage for this region of dappled sunlight.
The longest tunnel in Passages of the Deep also represents the world’s largest environment – the Open Sea. There are no towering kelp forests or narrow rocky channels here… just water as far as the eye can see. Most of the species represented in this exhibit live in the upper strata of water, commonly referred to as the Sunlit Zone. This area is alive with five species of shark, huge bat rays and great schools of anchovy and mackerel. The sharks are particularly popular with Aquarium visitors and all our species are native to Oregon coastal waters, including our largest specimen, the Broadnose Sevengill Shark.
Dive Interpretation Program in the Open Sea: Our interpretive dive program lets you watch and speak live to our volunteer SCUBA divers as they swim among sharks and rays in this exhibit. The divers will share their experiences and insights about the animals and give you a glimpse into what it takes to maintain a world-class aquarium!
- May 25: 12:00 p.m.
- May 26: 12:00 p.m.
- June 1: 12:00 p.m.
- June 8: 12:00, 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.
- June 15: 12:00 p.m.
- June 16: 12:00 p.m.
- June 22: 12:00 p.m.
- June 29: 12:00 p.m.
- July 4: 12:00 p.m.
- July 6: 12:00 p.m.
- July 7: 12:00 p.m.
- July 13: 12:00 p.m.
- July 20: 12:00 p.m.
- July 28: 12:00 p.m.
- August 3: 12:00 p.m
- August 10: 12:00 p.m.
- August 11: 12:00 p.m.
- August 12: 12:00 p.m.
- August 13: 12:00 p.m.
- August 14: 12:00 p.m.
- August 15: 12:00 p.m.
- August 16: 12:00 p.m.
- August 17: 12:00 p.m.
- August 18: 12:00 p.m.
- August 24: 12:00 p.m.
- August 31: 12:00 p.m.
- September 1: 12:00 p.m.
- September 2: 12:00 p.m.
- October 26: 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.
- November 11: 12:00 p.m.
Other Features in Passages of the Deep
As you exit Passages of the Deep, be sure to check out any activities that may be in progress in our Gleason Events Room or browse the merchandise in the Shark Zone Gift Shop.
Passages of the Deep Videos
Want to see more videos? Visit our YouTube channel.
What Lives Here
Rays are related to sharks and skates. This large ray species is found in the murky intertidal zone off the Oregon coast, often lying still on the bottom where it... more
Skates are commonly marine animals all along the Pacific Coast. They are generally found gliding gracefully through the water along the ocean bottom or buried in ... more
These large sharks are common to Oregon coastal waters and can range as far north as British Columbia and as far south as Chile. They are the largest shark speci... more
Bull Kelp are the dominant species in offshore kelp forests along the Oregon Coast as this species prefers colder water with a temperature range of 39° to 59° F (... more
Spanish-speakers will quickly understand this fish’s unusual name, which translates to “big-headed.” It is a formidable-looking animal, with a large, blunted head... more
One of many varieties of rockfish living off the Oregon coast, the China Rockfish is easily identified by its striking colors and mottling. The body of the fish ... more
Copper Rockfish have a deep, stout body. They vary in color from dark brown or olive to pink or orange-red above with patches of copper-pink and sometimes yellow.... more
You can find this common sportfish hanging lazily among the towering cliffs of Orford Reef in the Passages of the Deep. As their name suggests, they prefer live i... more
This fish is often referred to by many names, including sea trout, greenling seatrout, rock trout, kelp trout and kelp cod. But regardless what you call it, this ... more
Perhaps one of the most strikingly beautiful sharks in our Passages of the Deep exhibit, this species is easily identified by the variegated pattern of bars and ... more
Also known as the White-plumed Anemone, these beautiful animals have tall, slender columns when extended. They have a broad oral disc covered with short, slender,... more
A favorite resident of our Passages of the Deep exhibit, this striking fish can be found drifting slowly through the waters of the Orford Reef and Halibut Flats h... more
This shark species is unusual in two major ways. First, it is one of only two species to have a sharp, venomous spine directly in front of its dorsal fins (the o... more
When visiting the Passages of the Deep, be careful in identifying these beautiful fish. They are often confused with a close relative – the Canary Rockfish, whic... more
Yellowtail rockfishes are large fish with heavy bodies and large lips. They tend to be greenish or yellowish on their backs with one row of oval to rectangular pa... more