The John G. Shedd Aquarium is an indoor public aquarium in Chicago, Illinois in the United States that opened on May 30, 1930. The aquarium contains over 25,000 fish, and was for some time the largest indoor aquarium in the world with 5,000,000 US gallons (19,000,000 l) of water. The Shedd Aquarium was the first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection. It is surrounded by Museum Campus Chicago, which it shares with the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History. The aquarium has 2 million annual visitors; it was the most visited aquarium in the U.S. in 2005, and in 2007, it surpassed the Field Museum as the most popular cultural attraction in Chicago. It contains 1500 species including fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects.
The Shedd Aquarium was the gift of retail leader John G. Shedd, a protégé of Marshall Field (benefactor of the adjacent Field Museum), to the city of Chicago. Although Shedd only lived long enough to see the architect’s first drawings for the aquarium, his widow, Mary R. Shedd, cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony.
Groundbreaking took place on November 2, 1927, and construction was completed on December 19, 1929; the first exhibits were opened on May 30, 1930. As one of the first inland aquariums in the world, the Shedd had to rely on a custom-made railroad car, the Nautilus, for the transport of fish and seawater. The Nautilus lasted until 1959.
In 1930, 20 railroad tank cars made eight round trips between Key West and Chicago to transport 1,000,000 US gallons (3,800,000 l) of seawater for the Shedd’s saltwater exhibits.
In 1933, Chicago hosted its second world’s fair, the Century of Progress. The Aquarium was located immediately north of the fairgrounds, and the museum gained exposure to a large international crowd.
In 1971, the Shedd Aquarium added one of its most popular exhibits, a 90,000-US-gallon (340,000 l) exhibit reproducing a Caribbean coral reef. That same year, the aquarium acquired its first research vessel, a 75-foot (23 m) boat for exploring the Caribbean, manned by a crew to conduct field research and collect specimens. In 1985, this boat was replaced with the aquarium’s current vessel, the Coral Reef II.
John Shedd’s grandson, John Shedd Reed, who had served as president of Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad from 1967 to 1986, was president of the aquarium’s board from 1984 until 1994, and was a life trustee until his death in 2008. Ted A. Beattie has been the president and CEO of the aquarium since 1994.
In 1991, the Shedd Aquarium opened its Oceanarium, a large addition to the aquarium that features many marine mammals, including Pacific white-sided dolphins and belugas. The main 3,000,000-US-gallon (11,000,000 l) tank made it the largest indoor marine mammal facility in the world. In 2006, the Beluga whale Puiji gave birth to a female calf, later named Bella. On August 16, 2007 Mauyak, another beluga, gave birth to a male calf named Miki, the Inuit word for small, bringing the total number of successful beluga calf births at the aquarium to three since 1999. The aquarium also boasts a number of sea otters; the core of this collection was a group rescued from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. In the Fall of 2008, the Shedd’s Ocenarium was closed for preventative sealing as well as administrative upgrades. The animals in the exhibit area were put on loan to other facilities nationwide until the exhibit reopened in May 2009.
The Shedd’s newest permanent exhibit, Wild Reef, opened in 2003. Located two levels below the main building, the 750,000-US-gallon (2,800,000 l) Wild Reef exhibit recreates a Philippine coral reef and is based on the Apo Island Marine reserve, complete with living coral, multiple species of fish and rays, and a collection of sharks. The main draw of this attraction is a 400,000-US-gallon (1,500,000 l) shark exhibit with 12-foot (3.7 m) high curved windows, allowing visitors a diver’s-eye view. The Wild Reef exhibit also features a saltwater tank display area where coral is propagated and grown for conservation purposes.
There are five permanent exhibits at the Shedd: Amazon Rising, Caribbean Reef, Waters of the World, the Oceanarium, and Wild Reef. The temporary exhibits include the Lizards and the Komodo King, which features a Komodo dragon named Faust, through the summer of 2008. The Amazon Rising exhibit is a 8,600-square-foot (800 m2) walkthrough flooded forest recreation of the Amazon river and the surrounding jungle. This exhibit contains 250 different species, and its highest water level is 6 feet. The Caribbean Reef exhibit was built in 1971, on the site of the aquarium’s very first exhibit, the Tropical Pool. A feature of this exhibit is a diver that interacts with the animals while talking with the people. A part of the exhibit is a 90,000-US-gallon (340,000 l) circular tank that allows for maximum walk-around viewing. the tank is near the center of the first floor, and is within walking distance of Amazon rising, Waters of the World and Wild Reef. The Oceanarium is split into two levels, above and below the waterline. Above the waterline, there are two sets of bleachers where can watch the dolphins perform. While below the waterline, guests can see the Beluga Whales and Dolphins up close.