Monterey Bay Aquarium in California showcases the repertoire of ocean life that populates a nearby offshore rift the size of the Grand Canyon. Each year two million people visit one of the world's largest indoor oceans three hours south of San Francisco. Monterey Bay is home to life that ranges from sharks, barracuda and giant octopus to thousands of tiny anchovies swirling around an enormous oval tank. The aquarium is a non-profit learning centre, designed to bring people closer to sea life. It sits in the middle of America's largest marine sanctuary and showcases more than 120,000 creatures and 525 species in more than 100 exhibits. Huge crowds gather to listen to the explanation of undersea activities broadcast through bubbling masks by divers paddling through three-storey-tall forests of kelp in a 1.5-million-litre tank. Another room allows children to handle scores of sea creatures from Monterey's tidal pools, while the most popular exhibit features the antics of a colony of cuddly sea otters - orphans who are rehabilitated by the aquarium's rescue programme, the largest of its kind. All of these attractions have been dwarfed by the opening of a huge new wing in March. The US$58 million Outer Bay Wing enlarges the aquarium's scope to include ocean sunfish, sharks, barracuda, stingrays and America's largest collection of jellyfish. The main tank is 10 metres deep and holds 4.5 million litres of sea water - more than all other previous displays combined. It includes a room of interactive entertainment dubbed 'Flukes and Fun'. Children don flippers and artificial flukes - the lobe of a whale's tale - to feel how whales and dolphins move. Pushing various buttons produces the sound of whales singing, dolphins squeaking and the bellow of the unusual California elephant seal. The new wing is the middle stage of a three-phase plan conceived 20 years ago by David Packard, who co-founded Hewlett-Packard. Mr Packard, who served as deputy secretary of defence under president Richard Nixon, decided to reinvest some of his profits in community projects, including more than US$50 million in the aquarium and more than US$13 million in the companion Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Both are housed in historic quarters in Monterey, an old capital of Mexican California, but better known as the fish canning town immortalised in John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. The aquarium uses the site and even salvaged some of the antique equipment of Hovden Cannery, one of the last to close in Monterey's rundown factory area. Some joke that the aquarium sparked a revival not only of the brick building but also the entire town. The punch line? Fish were long ago packed in Monterey for people but now people pack in for the fish. Work is underway on the next stage of expansion, set for 2001. The first phase recreated the shoreline of the pristine Monterey Peninsula. The second adds the outer bay. The visionary third phase will try to bring the ocean indoors. 'The real impact is the size,' aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson said. 'That allows us to create the illusion of the sea. That's the most important aspect.' The Monterey Bay Aquarium is on Cannery Row, about 190km south of San Francisco. Opening hours 10 to 6 pm daily, and 9 to 6 pm in the summer peak period.