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Old January 30 2013, 07:58 PM   #13
Redfern's Avatar
Location: Georgia, USA
Re: Things you wanted as a child

My father wouldn't let me mail order the Sea-Monkeys, but one time during a road trip, we stopped at a gas station/rshort order cafe/gift shop and I saw one of the "deluxe" kits. Seeing that the thing actually existed, my father allowed the purchase. It came with the "Ocean View" aquarium with the custom "night viewing" lamp. That turned out to be pretty cool in its own kitchy way. The "aquarium" was a cleverly molded single piece container that held maybe 12 ounces. Six convex "lenses" were molded into the clear material that would magnify whatever was caught in the fields of view. The bottom was shaped like a shallow volcano and kinda' dipped at the other end. (Originally, the undeside was painted to make the "sea bottom" opaque. Newer versions of the "tank" appear to be separate pieces, a "tank" and a "base" that are glued together. But in the 70s, it was single piece construction and, to me, a superior design.) The "lamp" was a firm fitting cover with a compartment for 2 AA batteries and an incandescent lamp and a switch. (I wonder if they've switched to a solid state LED now?)

The booklet was the coolest part. Printed in an insanely small font, I think it took me nearly an hour to read it cover to cover. Of course, it gave you the basics for priming the water, a packet that neutralized the harsh chemicals and introduce the proper salt balance. A second that contained the "suspended animation" eggs, a third that sealed the food and a fourth that contained "vitamins" and other nutritional additives. Anyway, the booklet actually discussed the "monkeys" from a legit scientific view, giving their Latin name and providing details about their method of "suspended animation", allowing the eggs to survive years if properly dry.

Of course, the critters themselves were NOTHING like the anthromorphized illustrations. That didn't bother me as much as their miniscule size! No wonder the "tank" had lenses; you needed them just to catch a glimpse at the wee buggers. Plus, they were so ghostly pale. That was one of the purposes of the food "additive". It supposedly introduced something that would, when used properly, turn their shells slightly pink.

I think I kept mine alive for nearly half a year. But we went on a trip during the warmer months and too much water evaporated, consentrating the salt levels too much. According to the booklet, if I were to let all the water evaporate, I could then add fresh water and new "monkies" could have hatched, provided the first generation laid eggs. I don't think mine answered the "call of nature" since I didn't see what appeared to be eggs when I let the "tank" dry out.

I see the guy who marketed "sea monkeys" went on to package a new "instant pet", Triops, a critter similar in form to a horseshoe crab, small but several times larger than the "sea monkeys" and possessing a natural colorization that allows one to see the crustaceans without a bloody microscope. They grow to be the size of your thumbnail.

I'm sure most kids felt conned by "sea monkeys", but I found them fascinating. I kept the "tank" for years after they died.


Tempt the Hand of Fate and it'll give you the "finger"!

Freighter Tails: the Misadventures of Mzzkiti
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