Fashion & Beauty

Riding the Sensational SeaGlass Carousel

Step inside the Nautilus-shaped glass-and-steel pavilion that encircles The Battery’s strange and wonderful new merry-go-round and choose the creature you want to ride. No prancing horses here, but rather, frolicking fish—gossamer, sorbet-hued, whimsical versions of real sea life. This is the park’s latest attraction, the $16 million SeaGlass Carousel, which, before its opening in August, had been a dream in the minds of The Battery Conservancy and its affiliates for well over 10 years. Conceived by WXY Architecture + Urban Design with the Battery Conservancy, with the original fish designed by the George Tsypin Opera Factory, the aquatic-themed carousel pays homage to New York City’s first aquarium, built at the Battery in 1896 (and since moved to Brooklyn).

IMG_0676 copyPhoto: Ruth J. Katz

Fiber-optic lighting glows from within each fish, transforming the inside of the outer building into an aquatic playground of bio-luminescent organisms, all of which change shades during the 3.5-minute ride.

And what a ride! You are strapped into a “cab” in the belly of your chosen fish. (Some are as large as 13½ feet tall.) It could be an angelfish, a thredfin butterflyfish, or any of 10 other species: red-lined butterflyfish, regal angelfish, cold blue discus, blue-ringed angelfish, orange-spot wrasse, betta, clearfin lionfish, Siamese fighting fish, and clown triggerfish.

But you scarcely have to know the proper names of the aquatic life to delight in harnessing these luminescent fiberglass-and-steel creatures. Once you are comfortably cocooned inside a fish, you get secured in (and for safety’s sake, particularly for children, the seat buckle cannot be opened by hand—a SeaGlass attendant must unlock the seatbelt at the end of the ride).

Then prepare yourself for a joyous carousel experience. Four speakers are cleverly secreted away in each fish, and in lieu of the predictable calliope melodies, there is very sophisticated “sea” music: SiriusXM composer Teddy Zambetti created thematic music for SeaGlass by remixing classical pieces, including among others, Camille Saint-Saëns’ Aquarium and Debussy’s La Mer.

IMG_0678 copyPhoto: Ruth J. Katz

The ride is unlike a traditional merry-go-round, which twirls around in a big circle. The SeaGlass Carousel has a grand 46-foot-diameter turntable that rotates 360 degrees. Within the main rotating platform are three 17-foot, individual turntables that also oscillate, but only 120 degrees, first in one direction and then in the opposite direction. In addition to that circular motion, there is vertical movement, as 18 of the fish move up and down with hydraulic help and also yaw 160 degrees, simulating a dive to the bottom of the sea.

There is no central core to the main turntable, as there is on a classic carousel, so the fish seem to dance, dive, and swim around the turntable, as if they were cavorting in an aquarium tank, or better still, the sea. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation’s Woodland Gardens encircle the exterior of the SeaGlass Carousel, so that one might imagine that the nautilus frame was “shipwrecked” in a lush garden.


Ride in the belly of a fish that seems to dance, dive, and swim around the turntable.
Video: Ruth J. Katz)

Since Aug. 20, when the carousel opened to the public, well over 70,000 people have ridden the 30 wildly quirky sea creatures (at $5 per ride). The Carousel is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., but will be closed in January and February. Children whose height is less than 42 inches, must be accompanied by an adult.


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