You’ve been there, sitting around the campfire when someone decides to tell a story about a terrifying fish the size of a car with razor-sharp teeth. You probably rolled your eyes and reacted much like the boy in the intro video to the National Geographic Museum’s new exhibit, Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants. “Sounds made up to me,” he sighs. What if I told you there are monster fish roaming the world’s rivers, and lucky for you, many of them aren’t going to eat you like in the campfire stories?
Dr. Zeb Hogan, an aquatic ecologist and National Geographic fellow, received a grant from the institution back in 2002 to do just that. He spent a decade searching for the world’s largest freshwater fish and many of his adventures were caught on tape for National Geographic’s television show, Monster Fish. But, the show was only one part of Hogan’s work and the new exhibit provides a space to showcase new things. “This is a way to provide different kinds of information to a different audience,” says Hogan. “It’s something that people can come to and learn about the fish. How long do they live? Where do they live? What are their threats? Why are they important? A lot of times we can’t cover all of that information in a TV program.”
The exhibit, divided into four geographical regions, provides all sorts of family fun. Interactive games and videos are scattered throughout, with life-size fish sculptures there to greet you at every turn. One particular entertaining element is the exhibit’s giant scale. Families can stand on it together and see which fish their collective weight equates to.
Additionally, visitors will learn about the research process. One station shows how explorers determine a fish’s age by looking at its bones, some of which can live over 100 years. Another station allows participants to virtually tag a fish and learn about its movement. “It’s fairly detailed and gives you a sense of what we do out in the field,” says Hogan.
For the young fisherman walking through, a fishing game will surely catch their eye. After learning about fishing regulations, players can catch different types of fish and determine whether to keep it, take it home to eat, or put it back in the river.
If the videos, games, and sculptures weren’t enough, you can’t help but crack a smile when looking at the “mini monsters” toward the end of the exhibit. Tanks designated by region house their native fish to give you an idea of what it looks like under the water there.
Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants opens Thursday, March 26, at the National Geographic Museum. Hogan will also share behind-the-scenes stories at National Geographic LIVE Thursday at 7:30. Tickets are available here.