Alaskan Adventure at Henry Doorly Zoo

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Project Team


Parts Used

What they say...

"When people walk in they're going to get a scene of what the Alaskan coastline looks like and feels like. They're going to see a lot of water movement generated by the Alaskan animals here. They're going to get a real sense of scale of just how large some of these animals are."
Dennis Pate
Zoo Director

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo’s most recent exhibit will undoubtedly aid it in holding the title of “world’s best zoo,” as rated by TripAdvisor. Nationally renowned for its leadership in animal conservation and research, today the Zoo includes several notable exhibits including the largest cat complex in North America, and the world’s largest nocturnal animal exhibit. Now, the Zoo’s new Alaskan Adventure is pushing the boundaries of interactive education with a 325 person splash ground, giving kids the opportunity to learn about animals seen near the Alaskan coastline. As emphasized by Zoo Director Dennis Pate, “children are going to be drawn to this because they’re going to love to play in the water, but they’re going to know what an orca is, a sea lion is, what a puffin is.”

In order to truly capture the beauty and realism of these creatures and their movements, the visionaries behind the exhibit wanted to make it so that it would appear as if the 75 bronze animals, created by Nebraska’s own Matthew Placzek, were dragging and interacting with the water just as they would in the ocean. For example, “when a humpback whale comes up out of the water, he drags a certain amount of water with him, and that certain amount rolls off his flippers.” This is one of the many effects the zoo wanted to simulate with computerized nozzles. While this was no easy task, with the help of Crystal’s versatile nozzles and our WATERlab™ design service, the finished product is nothing short of spectacular. With WATERlab’s™ simulation technology our designers were able to plug in different nozzles to the rendered landscape and mimic the finished product in a simulated environment. This freedom to realize the final vision before even beginning construction provided a trial and error process to help determine how each nozzle would interact with the statues, allowing them to decide on realistic effects to match each animal’s unique movements.

The brilliance of the exhibit doesn’t stop at the realistic movement of the water in relation to the animals, though – it also moves in sync with a series of noises programmed throughout the exhibit. Recorded sounds are played on a timed sequence from speakers tucked into the bushes, and the nozzles are programmed on the same schedule to react in a way that tells a story and brings the animals to life. For example, when the bear growls the 30 jumping salmon all try to swim away and this is portrayed with a number of quickened spouts of leaping water surrounding them. When the sea lions call out the rows of jets nearby react with a more intense effect than they are regularly programmed for. And of course, as the star of the show, the 18-foot humpback whale’s call is met with an enormous splash of water.

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