Never did I think I would utter the words,
“I spent the afternoon swimming with sea monkeys.”
As a child I had sporadic success as a sea monkey owner. That didn’t discourage me from trying, though. The packaging of the smiling, waving sea monkeys on the store shelf were too much to resist, so even with the experience of previous failed attempts of raising sea monkeys on my bedroom dresser, I would try again, certain that this time would bring better results.
Sometimes they would hatch and it was always a thrill to sit and watch these alien looking creatures swim around in their plastic tank, but all to often the experience ended in weeks of longing looks into an empty tank before I would eventually give up hope and toss the kit in the garbage.
Even after 20 years of advancements in technology and quality control, things have not improved at all in the area of sea monkey husbandry. My own children have relived the same marketing pull and deep disappointment of unhatched sea monkey eggs and empty plastic tanks. After countless allowance dollars spent and multiple attempts at raising sea monkeys, my kids have never actually seen a hatched sea monkey.
Sea monkeys are actually brine shrimp. The marketing of brine shrimp as sea monkeys is a special kind of genius. Here is how they work:
“A colony is started by adding the contents of a packet labelled “Water Purifier” to a tank of water. This packet contains salt, water conditioner, and some brine shrimp eggs. After 24 hours, this is augmented with the contents of a packet labelled “Instant Life Eggs”, containing more eggs, yeast, borax, soda, salt, some food and sometimes a dye. The Sea-Monkeys that hatched from the original eggs seem to appear instantly. “Growth Food” containing yeast and spirulina is then added every few days.”
Sea monkeys, or brine shrimp, thrive in a highly hypersaline environment like that of the Great Salt Lake. Four times saltier than the ocean, the Great Salt Lake is considered an extreme environment that supports few forms of life. The exceptions to that rule include the ever abundant brine flies and brine shrimp:
b) Brine Flies
Due to our terrestrial nature we notice the huge, coal black clouds of flies on the lake shore. We are often annoyed by their presence and fail to realize just how important they are to the aquatic ecosystem of the Great Salt Lake. These flies and their larvae & pupae support an enormous number of shorebirds.
a) Brine Shrimp
In the late 19th century, various investigators identified the brine shrimp as Artemia salina or Artemia gracilis, however, more recently they have been named Artemia franciscana (the same as the one in San Francisco Bay). Brine shrimp (also called “Sea Monkeys” by aquarium enthusiasts and aquaculturists) are Crustaceans that have about 15 larval molting stages ( their larvae are called nauplii) before they become full adults of about 10 mm. .
Yesterday the kids were able to see what those sea monkey eggs should have hatched into that they spent their hard-earned allowance money on in childhood. Not only were they able to see sea monkeys, they were also able to swim with them!
They weren’t as thrilled with that, but they didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to swim (and float) in the Great Salt Lake, so they joined millions of sea monkeys and took to the water to swim in “shrimp soup.”
The Great Salt Lake is a natural wonder of the world. The high concentration of salt, due to water flowing into it but not out of it makes it one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world.
We pulled into the Great Salt Lake state park where we paid 3.00 for the bus to enter. This meant we only paid .50/ each to float in the Great Salt Lake. What deal!
After speaking with the rangers, and learning a little bit more about the lake, the kids and I headed back to the bus to put on swim suits.
The rangers warned us about the flies and the shrimp but told us that if we could brave those two elements we would be able to experience the unique sensation of extreme buoyancy found only in hypersaline water due to the increased density.
The kids worked their way into the water and eventually took the plunge.
I waded out with them but Toby chose to stay on the shore. As a result he became the official towel/hat/shoe holder. 🙂
It was fun seeing the looks of astonishment and delight on the kids’faces as the water supported their body weight on the surface of the water.
Even my kids with minimal body fat, that usually are unable to float, stayed atop the water. Rusty exclaimed, “Boy, I wish I could take my Boy Scout swimming test here!”
They all had fun trying out different floating positions and yoga poses as they were supported by the water.
They were even able to sit cross-legged and remain upright as the waves bounced them along.
After an hour of floating we had everyone get out to dry off. The dry desert heat evaporated the water from our skin almost instantly, leaving behind a coating of salt that made our skin glisten. Rusty said we all looked like vampires with our glittering coating of salt.
Before we climbed back on the bus to change, we stopped at the outdoor hose to wash the salt from our swim suits and skin.
It was one of those unique, once in a lifetime experiences, that I never need to do again.
I can now say,
“I swam with Sea Monkeys in the Great Salt Lake!”