Luminescence banner

A new exhibit has launched at the Vancouver Aquarium. Luminescence is all about discovering the many ways that animals create and reflect light in nature.

Vancouver Aquarium Luminescence entrance

Through several exhibits, the Aquarium hopes to answer questions to some of the phenomena of the creatures in our oceans. Bioluminescence is light produced by a chemical reaction which originates in an organism. When both luciferin (producing light) and luciferase (creating a reaction) combine, light is generated as result of the energy released through the combination.


For some animals bioluminescence works as a defense mechanism to startle or divert attention from predators, and can also help to recognize their mate. Lighting also aids in luring prey.

Fluorescence, on the other hand, occurs when light of one wavelength (or colour) is absorbed by a substance and is almost immediately re-emitted or transformed into another wavelength (or colour). Fluorescence requires a light source.

Electric eel
[Electric eel]

I was invited to preview the exhibits, watch two electric eels help light up a christmas tree (by a jolt of electricity, causing the lights to flash), and experience The Polar Express in 4D.

All aboard for a 4D experience

I loved the experience of smelling hot chocolate and being in a winter scene complete with snowflakes. If you remember the animated film, this is a 15 minute version, captured with some pretty amazing effects.

Jelly Swarm, an interactive light installation

Luminescence is accompanied by Jelly Swarm, an interactive light installation created by Tangible Interaction, in collaboration with origami artist Joseph Wu.

Jelly Swarm, an interactive light installation

It’s located just past the entrance in the front room. While at the Oceanwise Chowder Chowdown a few evenings before, I noticed an interesting series of hanging white objects. The installation hadn’t yet been lit, but it’s quite a different story now, and worth the visit just to watch the changing sequence of LEDs, forming random patterns. There’s a button that you can push to change the sequence. There’s over 100 jellies all containing LED lights!

Jelly Swarm, an interactive light installation Jelly Swarm, an interactive light installation

Downstairs near the frog exhibit, a few Aquarium staff were on hand for craft hour. Joseph Wu demonstrated how to make an origami jellyfish. The younger kids then got creative with glitter and markers.

Joseph Wu demonstrating an origami jellyfish Me and Joseph Wu, origami artist
[With Joseph Wu at Jelly Swarm installation]

While at the Aquarium, don’t forget about the other great underwater creatures, including that frog exhibit I just mentioned.

Frog exhibit Frog exhibit Luminescene at VanAqua-21

If you’re with small kids, you’ll want to coordinate your visit to see Scuba Santa at the Strait of Georgia exhibit. He makes an appearance on weekends at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm, and daily from December 19 to 24.

Luminescene at VanAqua-20

Luminescence runs through January 2, 2012.


  • Comment by Shanti — November 28, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

    My favourite is the orange jellyfish.

  • Comment by arianec — November 29, 2011 @ 9:19 am

    And they’re so photogenic too, Shanti!

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.