Most New York kids have gazed up at the giant model of a blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life but what about the ocean’s less charismatic characters, the microscopic organisms or the animals surviving in its darkest depths? With its newest exhibition, Unseen Oceans, the American Museum of Natural History is shining a light on the complex and diverse marine world – some that’s brand new to science – that we rarely see in Earth’s vast oceans.

photo: AMNH/R. Mickens

Sense of Scale
Visitors walk through a series of circular rooms, the first explore some of the ocean’s smallest microbes – also known as plankton. Plankton has a huge role to play in sustaining life on Earth and while the science might be complex, larger-than-life models and interactive microscope stations help explain the relationship between these tiny organisms and their important place in our lives and in the health of the planet.

Here you’ll get to know these incredible life forms and you can even test yourself with a “Find My Baby Picture” game, matching plankton adults with their offspring.

photo: AMNH/R. Mickens

Live Exhibits
It’s only recently that scientists have understood how many marine animals can absorb light and emit it as bioflorescence. Turns out, it’s more than we thought! The live exhibits give a sense of how bioflurescent fish look under different lighting as well as how they are seen through the lens of the specialized underwater cameras at the forefront of the research. Meet scorpionfish, eels, seahorses, and sharks that all emit light in this unique way.

photo: AMNH/R. Mickens

Meet the Scientists
Advances in technology and an awareness of the ocean’s importance for climate stability means we are living through the golden age of marine exploration. As much as looking at the hidden life forms in the ocean, the exhibition puts equal emphasis on the scientists who are pioneering the research.

On show are some of the high tech removable tags that have been able to provide data about how blue whales spend their days. There’s also a shoal of mini-robots on display. The robots were a decade in the making and are helping oceanographers study currents and identify areas that need marine protection.

photo: AMNH/D. Finnin

New Technology
Have a kid who likes to tinker? They’ll be inspired by stories of oceanographers who have had to design their own equipment to solve problems – like how do you pick up delicate samples at intense underwater pressures? The answer involves a combination of memory foam, robotic arms, kevlar laces and special tubing. Or how do you get footage of animals that live in the dark? High tech cameras and lighting are allowing scientists to gather more and more information about unknown submarine spaces.

photo: AMNH/D. Finnin

Deep Dives
It’s hard to imagine the pressure at the bottom of the ocean, although a display of squashed styrofoam cups gives a sense of just how crushing it is at 3000ft below the surface. The theater experience takes place in a room designed to look like a submarine. Here, visitors get a ride from the ocean’s surface to the inky depths with footage from the BBC’s latest Blue Planet II series. In the next room, you can check out the partial replica of a Triton submersible for your hashtag moment.

photo: AMNH/D. Finnin

Interactive Moments
There are plenty of interactive games including one where you navigate through a coral reef in order to gather samples. You’ve got to keep an eye on your oxygen levels and make sure the submersible doesn’t damage the environment. It’s a fun way to inspire the next generation of explorers to go even further in uncovering more mysteries of the deep.

American Museum of Natural History
Tickets: Adults $28, Children $16.50
Central Park West & 79th St,
New York, NY
212-769-5100
Opens: March 12th, 2018
Online: amnh.org

Have you checked out the AMNH’s latest exhibition? Let us know in the comments below.

-Emily Myers