On August 13, 1986, a $180,000 exhibit on the State of the Sound opens officially at the Seattle Aquarium. The aquarium believes the exhibit, which explores the health of Puget Sound, is the first in the nation to focus on the local environment.
The exhibit, funded by city, state, federal, regional, and private organizations, features stations where visitors can take water samples and lower traps into the water to catch marine life that lurks beneath Seattle's piers. Visitors can check Puget Sound's temperature, salt content, and tide level. Using a white marker known as a secchi disc, they can determine the water's cloudiness, a factor that changes with storms and the tide.
A device is periodically lowered to capture samples of bottom sediment. In addition to clay and sand, the device frequently captures decades-old bottles and rusty cable, which ties into the message of how humans interact with the Sound. An exhibit called The Delicate Balance features weights hanging on both sides of a see-saw. Young visitors attempt to strike a balance between things humans want from the Sound, such as boating, fishing, and swimming, and the natural qualities the Sound needs to stay healthy.