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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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The ocean is a global system, essential to all life. Dive in!

There’s not another Earth system that affects all of us—and all of life—as profoundly as the ocean: it holds 97% of our water, produces more than half our oxygen, and absorbs more carbon than anything else on Earth.

This 23,000-square-foot exhibition takes you from the shore and shallows all the way down to the ocean floor. On this fascinating dive, you’ll also travel through time, from the origins of the ocean 3.8 billion years ago to the challenges and exciting scientific opportunities the ocean presents today.

The Sant Ocean Hall contains more than 600 specimens, as well as life-sized models like Phoenix, a real North Atlantic right whale who scientists have been tracking since her birth in 1987. In the Ocean Explorer Theater, a short film invites visitors to board Alvin, a deep-ocean submersible, to explore the multitude of life that thrives two miles below the surface.


  • A preserved 25-foot-long giant squid
  • Three skeletons of ancient whale relatives (one of which had legs!)
  • A bubblegum coral, the largest-known deep sea coral, named for its bright pink color and gumball-like branch tips.


  • Take a selfie in the massive fossilized jaws of C. megalodon, a gigantic shark that prowled the ocean between 2.6 and 23 million years ago
  • Find a carpet anemone, a snapping shrimp, a long-spined sea urchin, or any of the 21 other species in the living Indo-Pacific coral reef
  • Watch an innovative video presentation of global ocean data projected on a six-foot-diameter sphere

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