On the 22.10.2015 the ocean was rough and agitated, with strong winds bringing lots of rain to Madeira. Since our boats had to stay in the marina of Calheta, it was for us a perfect time to “dive” into the exposition of the Natural History Museum of Funchal. Leaving rain and wind outside the portal of the Museu Municipal de Historia Natural e Aquario. A museum, situated in a gorgous building of the 18.th century, the Palace Sao Pedro.
On the second floor, we felt like put in former times, when there were yet no multimedia installations, audio-guides and similar technical fooling. Sure, we saw also exhibits, which had have obviously better times. But in general, it was good to get insight about the local species of animals from Madeira.
Certainly, that we were especially interessted to look at marine animals, which are usual not easy to observe during our daily work in the “blue office”. Animals like sharks, which in real life dove long ago before we even manage to come closer. Same with the rare and endemic Madeiran Storm petrel, which are moving too fast during our trips. So now finally we could study them in peace and pay attention to small details. For example the tubelike structure on the Cory’s Shearwaters beak, with which the birds secrets excessive salt. Or the bony skeleton of a Pilotwhales skull. There we proofed, if it is true, that these Odontocetes, a scientific name for toothed whales had left only teeth in the front parts of their upper and lower jaws. Fascinating to see was also, how big and widespread the winglike pectoral fins of the flying fish could get. During our trips on the ocean, we often see those “flying artists” above the water surface.
Altogether, we were astonished about the variety of marine and terrestrial organisms, the exhibition presented. Most of them originating form a time, in which there were still no industrial fishing going on and the marine ecosystems could reasonably maintain their ecological balance. Our visit in the museum was very enriching and we left the exhibition with some new gained impressions.
However, there is unfortunatelly one clear drawback. Obviously and easy to see, the aquariums, located in the basement of the Palace are far to small for their living inhabitats. They are so tiny and not at all species appropriate. Many of the caged animals, among them intelligent animals like the octopuses living a sad life.
by Astrid Haas