Final, largest acrylic panel to be installed in Australia’s only Deep Reef Habitat at Cairns Aquarium
When it opens to the public, The Cairns Aquarium will have Australia’s very first “Deep Reef” observation habitat, a 300,000 litre, 10m high exhibit which showcases the diversity of marine life that lives over the reef’s edge and beyond the reef “drop off”. One of only three Deep Reef tanks in the world, designed for viewing from two levels, it is sure to be one of the most iconic and memorable exhibits in the aquarium visitor journey. At 8m in height, 8m in width, 19cm thick and weighing over 7 tons it is the final, and largest piece of the 41 acrylic panels to be transported to site.
It is the culmination of a $2.4m design, supply and install agreement that delivered acrylic panels custom designed and engineered just for the Cairns Aquarium project with specific shape, size, clarity and strength properties. The manufacturing process took approximately 6 months and involved melting methacrylate and pouring liquid methacrylate into custom fabricated moulds, an extended curing or “annealing” process using heat and cooling cycles followed by cutting, sanding and polishing.
Transportation of this large acrylic panel to Cairns Aquarium by road has already provided some challenges due to the floods in the south east however the police escort and its very wide load arrived safely in Cairns. In anticipation of the delivery Florence St was closed to traffic.
Preparation to lift the massive panel from the transport will include the use of three cranes and is expected to take several hours, with the installation process also expected to take at least several hours to complete.
The installation of this acrylic panel, in what will be the first aquarium to be built in Australia for over 17 years, is a very symbolic event in the construction timeline and Cairns Aquarium CEO and Founder Daniel Leipnik said: “This is one of those milestone construction events that my partner and Co-Founder, Andrew Preston and I have been looking forward to for some time. To see this huge acrylic panel moving across the Cairns skyline will be an incredible sight and we expect every construction worker to be on hand to witness it as this is not an event that any of them are likely to have seen on any other building site, and potentially an event that they will never have the chance to witness again.”
The construction and installation of the theming that replicates the natural environment of the Deep Reef has also been challenging due to the height of the exhibit. Special structures had to be installed to support the theming elements however, when complete, the Deep Reef habitat will provide aquarium visitors with a unique view of the stratified coral outcrops that range from the sunlight bathed shallows to the darker, lower depths of the “drop off”. Mid-size reef fish will move throughout the exhibit while nocturnal, deep foraging fish will inhabit the lower levels.
Normally a view of the deep waters of the outer reef would only be available to highly experienced deep water divers and Cairns Aquarium General Manager said “The Cairns Aquarium has been designed to provide people who would not normally be able to experience the beauty and majesty of the deeper dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef with the opportunity to now see it. We expect the Deep Reef to be a highlight of the Cairns Aquarium visitor journey, with plenty of photos being shared on social media”.