First up is the Prince Albert I Room. It is chock full of artifacts and information from and about Prince Albert I's oceanographic explorations and scientific research between 1885 and 1915.
At the time of his first voyage, oceanography was a relatively young science and Prince Albert I played an important role in its development. He and his crew studied plant and marine life, taking extremely detailed notes and preserving specimens, some of which are on display.
In 1906, he created the Oceanographic Institute Foundation Albert I, Prince of Monaco which later became the famed Oceanographic Museum of Monaco we can visit today. It houses the museum and aquarium in Monaco, but also includes a library and world-class Parisian research facility.
My favorite example of his team's work was their study of the ocean currents. They dropped bottles encased in copper balls into the ocean. Inside each bottle was a note written in 10 different languages, asking whoever found the ball/bottle to report information about their location back to the Prince.
This allowed for a much deeper and more accurate understanding of the ocean's currents, especially the Gulf Stream.
There's something almost romantic to me about how simple and effective it was. Besides, who doesn't dream of finding a bottle washed up on some shore with a message inside it? For science!
Just outside of the Prince Albert I Room is large hall with more interesting things to look at. Like a replica of the first submarine which was built in the 1700s.
I want to think that I have enough of an adventuring spirit that I would have climbed right in that thing when it was first built, but I know how I feel about deep, dark water: fear and awe. The bottom line is that I'd probably let another sucker go first at least a few times.
At the time, Mark Quinn's Self 2011 , a cast of his head in his own frozen blood, was also on display here. I briefly mentioned him last week, but his works were on display throughout the museum as part of an exhibition called "The Littoral Zone."
I'm not sure why my only photo of it is so far away. I stood in front of it for awhile vacillating between contemplation and general heebie jeebies. If art is supposed to make you think, I quickly learned that Marc Quinn definitely does that for me.
At the other end of the hall, across from the Prince Albert I Room is the Whale Room. It comes by its name honestly. The skeleton of an immense rorqual fin whale that, at nearly 60 feet (18 meters), seems to span the whole room and dwarf the other 12 whale skeletons surrounding it. It's hard not to stop and stare for a good, long while.
The Whale Room also showcases temporary exhibitions alongside all of the other interesting marine specimens around the room. On our visit, of course, it was more of Marc Quinn's work. One of my favorites was the eerily beautiful The Future of the Planet. My photo is blurry, but there's a clear picture at the link.
After the Whale Room, we went to the roof. The views were a treat, even on a cloudy and drizzly day. If you ever visit, I highly recommend not skipping out on it. There is also a washroom up there. Two birds, one stone.
More Marc Quinn pieces and a funny, yellow not-quite-a-submarine boat greeted us.
The whole experience was a great way to spend part of a rainy day, especially in a country that has a reputation for being superficial and touristy.
If you're interested in going, here is a link to the official website of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco for all of the updated information you will need, including hours and ticket prices.