Press ENTER to search, ESC to clear

Spanning History: Main Avenue Bridge Recognized

On Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 82 years from the day when it was opened, the Main Avenue Bridge, also called the Main Avenue Viaduct, will receive a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Designation from the Cleveland Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. According to WEWS TV-5,  fewer than 230 projects in the United States have received this distinction.

Built in 1939 with funds allocated from the Public Works Administration, the Main Avenue Bridge was one of many bridges and structures built in Cleveland during the Great Depression as a way to spur economic growth. The span over the Cuyahoga River in the Flats originally featured a float bridge, but was replaced with a 200-foot hand-operated swing bridge in 1869. In 1938, plans to build a new bridge to alleviate the increased traffic driving into the city was introduced by joining the east portion of the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway (named for the local veterans of World War II) to the west side span that extended to Edgewater Park. The eastern portion was originally built in 1936 to access the Great Lakes Exposition, which extended from E. 9th Street to E. 55th. It was the largest project of the Works Project Administration in the country.

When the bridge was completed, it held the record for the longest elevated structure in Ohio (with a length of 8000 feet) until 2007. The initial construction of the bridge, from 1938 to 1939, had workers use over 24,000 tons of steel and 55,000 cubic yards of concrete to build the cantilever truss crossing.

The structure is being given historic landmark status due to its use of continuous, haunched structural forms which offered greater structural efficiency and improved the aesthetics (the haunches are the vertical support structures under the roadway). It is also a significant example of a deck cantilever structure, which means that a structural member is positioned below the joists to support the weight of the frame. The lakefront ramp includes a plate girder span that holds the record at 271 feet and the overpasses at West 28th Street contain some of the first welded rigid frames. The construction represented a significant engineering achievement of the time.

In 1986, the bridge was renamed the Harold H. Burton Memorial Bridge in honor of the man who served as mayor during its construction and in 2007, the signature blue paint was added to keep the steel portions from deteriorating.

See an album of historic Cleveland bridges here. More details on the dedication ceremony can be found here.

– Neda S.

5 Things I Learned about Vietnamese Mossy Frogs

Native to North Vietnam, these mossy frogs live in flooded caves and in the banks of rocky mountain streams. A semi-aquatic species, they spend a significant amount of time submerged with only their eyes poking out over the surface of the water.

Sometimes it can be a challenge to spot the Vietnamese mossy frogs in Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s Asia & Indonesia Gallery. They only grow to be 2.5 to 3.5 inches and they’re flat and wide when resting. Wart-like bumps and green-and-ruddy brown skin give them a moss-like appearance and let them blend with their habitat.

Not only are they masters of camouflage, but they’re also masters of misdirection. Vietnamese mossy frogs can make their voices seem like they are coming for 10 to 13 feet away so predators cannot pinpoint their locations.

Vietnamese mossy frogs have sticky toe discs that help them climb trees and cling to rocky surfaces.

Even with excellent camouflage, climbing abilities and ventriloquist-level vocal skills, predators sometimes track down mossy frogs. When threatened by tree-dwelling mammals or snakes, Vietnamese mossy frogs will curl into a ball.

Next time you visit, see if you can spot the mossy frogs blending in with their surroundings. Nature. It’s curious thing.

  • Samantha F.

We’ve Been Nominated!

If you haven’t heard yet, the Aquarium is nominated for the 3rd annual Parent Choice Awards! We were nominated for Best Rainy Day Out by the readers of Northeast Ohio Parent last month and for that we say thank you!

It’s very exciting to be nominated for this specific category because we consider ourselves to be 73o and sunny every day. The Aquarium is the perfect mini-tropical escape for the family when the weather outside is grey and rainy. After a dreary, drizzly drive you can enter each of our captivating galleries of colorful lands around the world. We have more than 50 exhibits with animals that can be found in areas like our native Ohio Lakes and Rivers all the way to Asia and Indonesia.

A guest favorite, our Coastal Boardwalk gallery features an 11,000-gallon stingray touch pool and an invertebrate touch pool that includes bumpy, chocolate chip sea stars and hard-working, cleaner shrimp. In this gallery, you’ll learn the official “two-finger touch” technique so you can feel the smooth backs of our “smiley” stingrays.

Get ready to explore underwater as you reach the end of your walk-through, because our 230,000-gallon shark exhibit includes a 175-foot SeaTube that you can walk under and watch sandtiger sharks, moray eels and stingrays swim above you!

You will stay warm and dry even on a rainy day of venturing undersea…although dad might get a shower when he goes to pull the car around.


We appreciate all the readers of Northeast Ohio Parent for nominating us last month. If you would like to vote for us here’s the link to the ballot:

Voting runs through May 31st and the results will appear in the July issue of Northeast Ohio Parent.

(P.S. Don’t forget to vote for some of our nominated friends like the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland Metroparks and Playhouse Square.)

5 Ways to Commemorate International Talk Like a Pirate Day

International Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t just for Jack Sparrow, there aarrrrrrre plenty of ways to celebrate on September 19.
What is International Talk Like a Pirate Day? How did it begin? Surprisingly enough, by two guys playing racquetball. The entire story can be found on the ITLAPD website.

So how can you celebrate?

  1. Make up your Pirate Name
    There are dozens of sites with name generators and quizzes. We found a few for you to make it easier and get the (cannon)ball rolling. My favorite for my name, Morgan Wright? I can’t decide between Martha “Both Barrels” Jones or Dirty Morgan Flint.
    Pirate Name Generator Basic
    Pirate Name Generator Advance
  2. Test out your Pirate Lingo

    Dress up . . . or dress up your pet
    So you don’t have a parrot? Not everyone can be Edwin Encarnacion after a homerun. Find a bandana and eye patch and include Fido in your celebrations!

  3. Go full-on pirate on Facebook.
    Did you know you can switch your Facebook language to “pirate?” Want to see what it would read as when your Aunt Sue updates her status about your cousin’s first week of third grade? Change the language to pirate!
    – Step 1: Click the ENGLISH Hyperlink at the Bottom of Your Page
    – Step 2: Select English (pirate)
  4. Visit us!
    We’ll be celebrating all day TODAY, September 19 during general admission hours. Save your doubloons by celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day (ITLAPD). On Tuesday, September 19, read a randomly selected phrase while doing your best pirate impression and receive $5 off of your admission that day. The first 200 brave buccaneers receive an eyepatch.


Dress-up chest and paper plate pirate craft (11am – 3pm)
A swashbuckling story for the wee ones told by our own Lake Erie Monster-seeking Captain NEO (11am)
An appearance by land shark mascot Finn (2pm)
A target shark feed (3:30pm) and
A chance to search for treasure (10am – 5pm) in the exhibits.

My First Time Diving

I never would have expected that the first time I donned my gear and stepped into the water that my life would be forever altered.

As a zoology major I took a special interest in Marine Science. While looking at potential jobs, I realized that getting my scuba diving certification would be a necessity. So, after classroom and pool instruction, one early May Saturday morning I woke up before the crack of dawn and made my way to Gilboa Quarry.

Being my first dive and not knowing what to expect had me both excited and nervous. The water was a brisk 45 degrees so I was instructed to wear gloves and a hood, which I had never practiced before. The feeling was restrictive which only made my nerves worse. Although I was scared, I was exhilarated knowing I was finally going to dive, so I took a deep breath and jumped in.

Being in the water was amazing. I felt like I was entering an entirely different world. Visibility of at least 40 feet made my experience with seeing the rainbow trout, perch, catfish and paddlefish more than I expected.

When I reached the underwater platform, we began to practice the skills we learned in class. When I was instructed to take off my mask and put it back on, I started to freak out. I had a million thoughts running through my head. Will this be different from what I practiced with a hood on? Will I be able to breathe? Will I be stuck with a water-filled mask? Luckily we were not far from the surface so I went up and calmed myself down.

Once I collected myself, the instructor walked me through everything and I realized that I would be completely fine. After practicing a few more skills in the water, we followed my instructor for a “fun dive”. This consisted of stare downs with perch, swimming through tire obstacles, feeding zebra mussels to blue gills, pretending to jump on a trampoline, playing rock paper scissors, and lots and lots of smiling. Actually, I kept flooding my mask with water because every time I smiled, water cracked through the bottom of my mask! However, I didn’t care; I cleared it as practiced and focused on the underwater world in front of me. It felt like the quarry went on forever, finding new treasures and organisms every inch we went. We explored the inside of sunken airplanes, cars, boats, helicopters and buses. Some of these are things I’ve never even experienced on land!

The most memorable part of this dive was when our instructor took us over the big sunken school bus. He stopped us before we swam and gave us some weird hand signals that we thought meant, “follow me”. We were wrong… we followed him over and rested at the top. In an instant, we are surrounded by at least 100 fish; big, small, brown, yellow, hungry, starving. Us students were laughing into our regulators; flailing our arms in a tornado of fish until eventually we swam away panting. After we got out of the water, turns out those hand signals meant, “swim on the side of the bus, and don’t go over it.” Apparently that bus is a place instructors go with food to feed the fish, so they always swarm there (thanks for the warning instructor am I right?) After what felt like an exhilarating few hours, we surfaced only to find twenty-three minutes had passed. Time slows when you’re underwater, and thankfully so.

I had the time of my life. My eyes couldn’t believe what they were seeing, my brain couldn’t believe I was breathing and my heart couldn’t believe I’ve missed this feeling for twenty two years of my life. Though its embarrassing to say, I climbed out of the water only to run to my mom and tell her, “I can’t wait to get back in!!!” with a gigantic smile on my face.

That first dive, six months ago, has lead me to my current position as an Exhibit Diver here at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and I happily wake up at 6am everyday anxious to get in the water.

To see what I explored on my first dive, click here!

Diving Physics

Becoming a SCUBA diver is more than learning how to breathe under water; you also have to understand the physics that explain why certain things occur while you are diving.

Starting with the basics:

Density: water is 1000 times denser than air, and while air’s density can vary- the density of water cannot.

Heat: Water has a high heat capacity ~4 times more than air. Water also has high thermal conductivity. Heat is conducted 22-24 times faster in water. This means, divers get colder quicker when in water. Wet and dry suits are different types of clothing worn by divers that can keep them warmer for longer.

Sound: Sound travels differently through water than air. When something makes a sound above the water you generally can tell what direction it is coming from, whereas in water you cannot pinpoint a direction. This is due to the fact that sound travels four times faster in water than in air.

Compressibility: Air can be compressed. When divers fill their dive tanks, they will use air compressors to fill the tank to 3000 psi. Water, however, cannot be compressed. You cannot take two liters of water and fit it into any container smaller than a two-liter bottle.

Light: Ever stick a straw in a cup of water and look at it from the side? The straw appears to be bent. This is due to the refraction of light when it passes through water.

Objects also appear larger and closer when under water. It isn’t uncommon for new divers to reach for something in front of them (a rope for example) and completely miss grabbing it. This is because the rope appeared to be closer than it really was.

Light absorption in water is high compared to in air. The first color to disappear as you go deeper into the water is red; the following colors of the rainbow too would disappear when you go deep enough. This is why underwater cameras, for example, GoPro, often have a red filter so that the photographer can capture all of the colors of beautiful reefs and fishes while at depth.

There are also some important principles to take into account when scuba diving. The first, Archimedes Principle, states that a body immersed in liquid is buoyed up by force equal to the weight of displaced water. As a diver you have to be able to accomplish neutral buoyancy when diving. Neutral buoyancy means that you are neither sinking nor rising within the water column.

Divers first need to use some weight when diving, especially when wearing a highly buoyant wet suit. The excess weight helps displace the water that surrounds the diver. The next important piece of equipment is called the Buoyancy Compensating Device (BCD). This is the vest that divers wear; it contains an air bladder that can be filled with the air from the divers scuba tank. The BCD helps the diver become neutrally buoyant by adding the correct amount of air to almost counter the weight worn by the diver-it should look like the diver is hovering within the water.

Another important principle is Boyles Law-volume varies inversely with pressure, with the greatest relative change in volume occurring near the surface.

Simply put-as a diver goes deeper into the water, the pressure on everything becomes greater. The volume of air in the dive tanks is getting smaller while the pressure rises. Remember from the basics that you can compress air. This also means that the air in the divers lungs also becomes compressed when at depth. When the diver surfaces- one of the most important rules is to be continuously breathing. Never hold your breath when ascending. This is due to the air in the lungs will start to expand because there is less pressure of the water exerted on the body. Holding your breath can cause catastrophic injury to divers lungs.

Charles Law, which states; at constant volume, pressure varies directly with temperature. When divers need to fill their air tanks, they must do so slowly. This is because as the tank fills, all of the air molecules are being jam packed into a rigid area.

Those molecules will start bumping into one another as the pressure builds- creating heat. A newly filled tank will feel warm and if filled too quickly will show a higher pressure than what is actually in the tank. Given time to cool, the tank will read at a lower psi.

Dalton’s law of partial pressures is our next physics lesson-especially for divers who are diving on NITROX. NITROX is a mixture of gases that allows divers to stay at depth longer due to its enrichment of oxygen. The law states that the total pressure exerted by a mixture of gases is equal to the sum of the pressures that would be exerted by each gas if it alone were present and occupied the total volume.

Ptotal = P1 +P2 +P3….

Even though a gas mixture is made up of several different constituents, each gas will demonstrate its own behavior. This is important for divers to understand because they must be aware of oxygen toxicity (yes, you can have too much oxygen if you go too deep on enriched air) and Nitrogen Narcosis which occurs at depths around 100 feet and deeper and makes the diver sluggish and even drowsy and can have an effect on good decision making.

The final law divers should be aware of is Henry’s Law. The solubility of gases: the amount of gas that will dissolve into a liquid is a function of the partial pressure of the gas over the liquid. With great depth comes greater partial pressure. More gas dissolves in cold water. This law is important to divers because as they go deeper in the water their body will absorb nitrogen gas into their tissues. When the divers want to return to the surface they must do so at a controlled slow rate so that the nitrogen they absorbed at depth is effectively off-gased. Divers should be aware that at greater depth they would have high absorption rates of gases.

Although these laws may be a lot to take in, they are all very important to all SCUBA divers. The laws help divers remain safe when adventuring in the world underwater.

Diver Costume Construction

The dive team loves participates in many GCA holiday events including Halloween and Scuba Claus. Construction of the underwater props and costumes for these dives needs to ensure that both the diver and animal safety is always taken into consideration. Marine animals are very aware and often curious about changes in their environment and will investigate, pick at and if given the opportunity, eat anything new. We see this every year with our Halloween pumpkins. Within minutes of being placed in an exhibit they will be picked, ripped and eaten. Because of this anything we build and take into an exhibit that can be eaten needs to be approved be the curator. Props need to minimize dangling straps, threads, strings and anything that an animal can remove. Care must be taken to not have anything come off the costume such as metal which can scratch the acrylic or sequins that may be ingested.

Construction materials used for props need to chosen to not cause an adverse reaction in the exhibit. Some metals, copper in particular, can be toxic to the animals and should not be used. PVC and approved adhesives are best as these minimize the potential to upset the delicate chemical balance in the environment. Paints and coating must chosen with the same consideration. Paints and coatings must also resist flaking and peeling for the same reasons.

The goal of costumes is to enhance the guest interaction, particularly our younger guest. Planning for these events starts months in advance. Choosing a theme that is relevant and easily recognizable is debated and finally decided on. Once that decision is made we brainstorm what costumes and accessories will enhance the show. Often costumes can be purchased but often we will construct accessories. Last year’s “Ghost Busters” Halloween costumes were purchased, but the additional accessories, such as the Proton Pack and Ghost Trap were made using the guidelines outlined above. Using PVC pipe to create swords and nunchucks enhanced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes.

Scuba Claus is a major event for the Dive Team. The addition of the full face mask with underwater communications adds to the experience but also contributes to a more complicated and time considerations in getting divers safely in their gear and in the water. Did you know it could take up to 15 additional minutes for Scuba Claus to get dressed before he makes his trip down to see all the guests? Because the team makes so many dives in a short time, the costume requires constant attention and repair.