On September 29, 2023, Steinhart Aquarium is turning 100! You’re invited to add to this community scrapbook by sharing a favorite memory, creature, or aha! moment from the museum. Thanks for contributing your stories—and being part of ours.
Thank you for taking such great are of our animal friends in the aquarium!
Dear Steinhart Aquarium and the CAS
We loved visiting you before we had kids. Then we brought our kids to see you. Then in a blink, we brought our grandkids! And now, one said grandkid is an intern at CAS! We will continue to visit, though a little slower, and once again without kids! Thank you!
Love, the Offrils and the Dantzlers
My favorite was the manatee, really like how he just hangs around and eats his heads of lettuce.
Dear John McCosker, Director Emeritus
You may remember me by my unusual byline, Joe Hlebica, writer/managing editor of aquarium publications at Scripps's Birch Aquarium. I first applied to Steinhart for that job in 1992, and you were very encouraging in your letter of reply. I then applied to Scripps, and got the job. My mentor was your thesis advisor, Prof. Dick Rosenblatt. He introduced us. But in honour of the Steinhart 100th, I just want to say it was my first aquarium, and remains my favorite.
With find memories, Joe Hlebica
My dad, Ronald H. Born, was Director of the Welfare Department of the City and County of San Francisco for 35 years--1940 to 1975. But he also bred guppies! I remember tanks and tanks in our house of guppies whom Dad bred for longer tails on the males. This was pre-1953. That year, we moved to a house that didn't have room for them, and he made do with a community tank. Dad was a member of the California Academy of Sciences and we went there frequently! I was scared of the stuffed shark hanging over an archway, but still loved to go. As I do today, so many years later!
Love, Meredith Born
I remember my first trip to the aquarium in 1973. I came up to photograph some of the animals for a text book. I was also visiting UCSC to look into graduate school. What I remember most was an Amazon Manatee and a river dolphin on display. I think it was an Amazon river dolphin.
Professor Dan Costa Fellow CalAcad
At the old Steinhart Aquarium, a sign to the restrooms pointed down the stairs. Downstairs, there were three doors. One door was labeled "Men." Another was labeled "Women." The third door read "Reptiles and Amphibians." I always kind of expected an alligator to walk out, quietly zipping his fly.
Carol, a Boomer
Fans of the Academy of Science
Growing up, our 2 daughters actually thought the Academy belonged to them! We were regular visitors so they knew their way around by heart. We would be sure to pack a picnic to enjoy in the courtyard followed by the two of them sitting on the Bufano sculptures. Their favorite exhibits were the diamond in the rock, the safari sunset and sunrise, the light up fish, and most of all, the dinosaurs! My daughter just purchased a family membership so she can continue the tradition with her own daughter (named Sagan, yes, after Carl).Thanks for the years of excellent visits , education and family fun.
your fan, the Pogorelskin Family
Dear California Academy of Sciences and Science-Loving Citizens of Earth
John McCosker was head of the Steinhart Aquarium in 1980 when Sandy, the first great white shark to survive in captivity, arrived at the circular fish roundabout. After 3 1/2 days, Sandy was loaded up (think of that!) and shipped out to the waters of the Farallon Islands.
Best wishes, Martha E. Ture, Mt. Tamalpais Photos.com
What I love about the Steinhart Aquarium is the diversity of fish on display. I took my first docent aquarium course in 1972 in the 1923 Steinhart Aquarium. In the early days of the docent program, we primarily toured school children—elementary through high school. The many species made touring a rich experience, but there were glitches. For example, keeping the attention of teenagers focused on the fish tanks rather than on each other was a special challenge. A two-hour tour usually exhausted everyone concerned. Perhaps that is why I have fond memories of Steinhart’s display of the Giant Jawfish, a beauty about 18 inches long. Most jawfish are less than 4 inches and live in tropical waters. As a species, they are always busy--excavating and cleaning their burrows in the sandy bottom, chasing away intruders, carrying bits of rock and shell in their large mouths to line the burrows excavated in the sand. They guard their burrows, rising and sinking into the burrows, tail first, always on the alert for a rival jawfish. One fine spring day, I was touring a group of teenagers and was woefully unsuccessful in capturing their attention. I was about to abandon ship when I noticed one of the students transfixed in front of the Giant Jawfish. The fish was doing the usual rising and sinking into its burrow but would often arise and stay suspended in the tank, gazing at its reflection cast by the upper layer of water in the tank. The young man called over to his friends, “Hey, take a look. That’s the vainest fish I have ever seen.” I hadn’t thought of the fish just that way but I could see that the young man had succeeded where I had not--he had captured the interest of his friends. He made my day, but believe me, our Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences has a million stories of unique fish that will enthrall visitors of every age. Come and see for yourselves.
Love, Roberta Borgonovo
Dear Steinhart Aquarium Friends,
We lived down the Peninsula when I was a child, but now and then my Dad would bring my grandmother up to visit her sister in SF. While the ladies were talking, Dad, Grandpa, and I would go somewhere: the Academy of Sciences and the zoo were favorites. After the rebuilding and renovations, I went around enthusiastically finding what had not been changed. When I rediscovered the Sea Horse railing around what had been the alligator pit, I had a sudden flashback: I must have been about two, and my Dad held me up so I could see better. I thought I was going to fall into that pit of writhing reptiles: terror ensued--I screamed and shrieked. Needless to say, Dad set me down and we moved on. But to this day, I cannot see that railing, which I really love now, without tensing up, Claude was a welcome change. My children have no Post-Alligator-Trauma. I did like, and did not fear, the two-headed snake. And of course I loved all the pretty fish.
Thank you for 80 plus years of joy and learning, Carolyn
We've been enjoying the aquarium for more than half a century. I have a very fond memory of visiting the fish roundabout when it first opened. I was working at UCSF in May of 1977 and took a long lunch to see the amazing new addition to the Steinhart Aquarium. It was mesmerizing, watching the fish pass before my eyes. I tried to identify individual fish to see how long it took for them to make a complete circuit. To this day I still wonder how the aquarium managed to get them all swimming in the same direction.
Best wishes for another 100 years.
Steinhart Aquarium is turning 100!
I am a year older than the Academy, being 101 this past July! I retired form my medical practice few months ago. I had joined other Academy leaders who have used estate planning to make generous outright and planned gifts to the Academy. I became a researcher for the Academy, studying snakes and fish from 1970 to 1980 on my leisure. I still love coming to the Academy when possible.
My daughter and two grandchildren visited the California Academy of Science 12/27/2021. We took the VIP tour. It was the most interesting, educational and fun tour. We saw seeds that were hundreds of years old, bugs that no longer exist, stuffed zebras, we walked on the roof of the academy where the grass grows and the skylights get light into the exhibit space. It is one of loveliest memories of that visit to San Francisco.
Fondly, the Sarracino/Wright family’s granny
When I discover that place a few years ago, I had the idea that I don’t want to stop coming. I want to come as many times as I can and share the magical places with others (friends, family, etc) I become a member and go once a week. Those animals and all the nature definitely bring me more life than I still have!! :)