See Santa Swim Underwater in Full Scuba Gear at Vancouver Aquarium

Photo from Vancouver Aquarium

Photo from Vancouver Aquarium

Bored with all the standard holiday happenings in Vancouver?

Maybe an underwater Santa Claus – swimming amid giant halibut and sea stars in full Santa gear – will cheer you up.

Scuba Claus is back at the Vancouver Aquarium.  The uniquely amphibious Santa dons scuba gear and takes the plunge into the aquarium’s massive Georgia Strait tank once a day at 11:30 a.m. through Dec. 24.  With his long white beard trailing behind, the big man in red does a few laps with the exhibit’s resident rockfishes, giant sturgeon, crabs and other denizens of the deep.

It’s all part of the aquarium’s holiday celebrations, which seem to get bigger and fishier every year.  Back by popular demand is one of the most unusual Christmas trees anywhere. Some of the tree’s lights are actually turned on by a zap of power from an electric eel swimming in a nearby tank.  There’s also the festive Jelly Swarm exhibit: dozens of giant origami jellyfish suspended from the ceiling and bathed in glowing coloured lights whose pattern changes as you swipe a touch screen.

Photo from Vancouver Aquarium

Photo from Vancouver Aquarium

New this year is a tree of a different kind.  The 4.5-metre giant in the aquarium’s central gallery is made up of marine debris collected during a clean-up of B.C.’s famous West Coast trail and assembled by local artist Pete Clarkson.  There’s also an outdoor maze of decorated trees to wander through and even a workshop where Scuba Claus’s aquatic elves share holiday stories from the high seas.

Another classic back again this year is the film The Polar Express, showing in the aquarium’s unique 4-D theatre, which combines a 3D movie with effects like wind, mist and even scents.  The Tom Hanks-voiced movie, which has become a cult classic owing to its eerily lifelike style of animation, relates a child’s wild train journey to the North Pole.  The aquarium is showing a 20-minute clip of the film, enhanced with special sensory effects like falling snow and the scent of hot chocolate.

Photo from Vancouver Aquarium

Photo from Vancouver Aquarium

Finally, to get a glimpse of what the North Pole really looks like, check out the aquarium’s new Arctic photo exhibit, Frozen Moments.  Gorgeous photos from five renowned Arctic photographers are on display: David McEown, Daisy Gilardini, Mark Robinson, Rob Stimpson and Nansen Weber.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Celebrate the Holidays events run through Jan. 4. (Scuba Claus swims at 11:30 a.m. daily until Dec. 24.)  

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