Why did the largest aquarium in Europe burst and is this a threat to similar objects in Russia?

Aquarium burst floods Radisson Blu Hotel

Aquarium burst floods Radisson Blu hotel

A photo: REUTERS

This is a story about the fact that sooner or later the Tower of Babel will always fall apart, and the Titanic will sink. “AquaDom”, the largest cylindrical aquarium in the world, was the pride of the American company Reynolds Polymer Technologyspecializing in acrylic glass, and its subsidiary ICM, which builds structures with acrylic panels.

“The cylinder of this aquarium will not burst even in the event of a terrorist attack. At best, you can make a small hole, but even then nothing terrible will happen. Just a little water will flow out.” words today architect Michael Jessing, said twenty years ago, are quoted by all German media. Jessing argued that a Hollywood script was completely impossible here.

But he was wrong.

The largest cylindrical aquarium was installed in 2002. 16-meter structure with a million liters of salt water and 1,500 outlandish fish has become the main attraction of the Radisson Blu Hotel. There was even an elevator inside the aquarium, and two years ago AquaDom underwent a thorough German refurbishment at a cost of almost three million euros. Neat craftsmen put the elevator in order and replaced the silicone seals… After the covid, the aquarium only reopened in June of this year. But on December 16, everything went according to the Hollywood scenario.

Early in the morning, quarter to six hotel residents heard a powerful bang and felt movement under their feet. The collapse of the giant cylinder happened very quickly. The shock wave knocked out doors and windows. Furniture was thrown into the street. A million tons of water with dying fish spilled onto Karl Liebknecht Strasse.

Due to the fact that everything happened in the early morning, there were no casualties (only two people were slightly injured). However, one and a half thousand inhabitants of the aquarium died. Rescuers managed to pull out only thirty fish living in overexposure in the basement of the hotel.

Now in the Radisson Blue the basement floor is flooded by five centimeters, the atrium has been turned into ruins. According to experts, the collapse of the building does not threaten. However, the residents of the hotel have been evacuated and it will not be able to work in the same mode soon.

“AquaDom” – the largest cylindrical aquarium in the world,

A photo: REUTERS

“I’m tired, I’m leaving”

Representatives of the American company arrived at the scene for an examination. However, preliminary reasons have already been announced. It didn’t take… anything to destroy the world’s largest aquarium. It collapsed on its own.

– The first signs indicate the fatigue of the material, – said yesterday Interior Senator from Berlin Iris Spranger.

According to experts, a combination of reasons should be added to the official version, such as a combination of low temperatures, technical defects and weaknesses in the design.

The fatigue of a material is its destruction under the influence of mechanical damage and the accumulation of cracks. The classic example of this phenomenon is flooding Boston with molasses: an incident that occurred a hundred years ago at a brewery. Due to fatigue, a huge barrel with a sugar-containing mass burst, as a result of which more than nine thousand tons of molasses moved to the square. Molasses destroyed buildings, overturned a locomotive, and several dozen people drowned in it. The aftermath of the incident is still felt on hot days, when the smell of caramel can be felt in the air of Boston Square.

Three Warnings About Acrylic Panels

Prior to the incident in Germany, only three cases of acrylic panel leaks were known.

The first leak occurred in 2010 at the Dubai Mall.where an aquarium with ten million tons of water is located. Trading floors quickly filled with water, visitors had to be evacuated. However, the aquatic inhabitants were not affected, and after the repair, the aquarium was reopened. Then the ICM experts attributed this not to acrylic panels, but to the structure of the building: a beam under the glass sank and tore it along a vertical seam.

The second case occurred in 2012 in Shanghaiturned out to be more sad. Then, for no apparent reason, the viewing glass in the aquarium of the large Dongfang shopping center burst. Suddenly there was a crash, fragments of thick glass flew into the audience, water gushed with the inhabitants of the aquarium. 15 people were injured (according to some sources, 56), seven sharks, many sea fish and turtles died. The aquarium was relatively small: only 34,000 liters, which is three hundred times smaller than the one in Dubai. Then no conclusions were made, writing off the incident on the poor quality of Chinese panels.

We are in the third case. In April 2019, glass broke in the Oceania shopping center in Moscow.

This 24-meter aquarium, opened in 2016, was the tallest in the world. It held a million liters of salt water, had two acrylic cylinders, between which an elevator traveled. Designed by the same American company, it was similar to the German counterpart, and even the incident with broken glass also occurred shortly after the repair.

Sudden crackling, from the aquarium water poured. Fortunately, it did not come to collapse. According to some reports, the crack went along the adhesive seam of the cylinder. However, the exact cause of the event has not yet been announced. Now the miracle of engineering in the shopping center “Oceania” does not work.

Looking at the events that took place in Germany, the thought “and thank God” involuntarily comes.

Guests evacuated from Berlin hotel

Guests evacuated from Berlin hotel

A photo: REUTERS

Is the cylindrical aquarium in Aviapark safe?

Currently, in Moscow, in the Aviapark shopping center, there is a cylindrical aquarium, which was produced and installed by the same ICM company. The 23-meter cylinder appeared in 2014 and became the first such object in Russia and the highest in the world (before the appearance of the aquarium in Oceania).

It was three times inferior to the German “AquaDom” in terms of water volume, but due to the fact that it was higher and had a smaller base area, the water pressure on the bottom turned out to be almost one and a half times greater than that of the German one!

It was this project that the Americans considered their most difficult work and the monumental success of ICM.

– This project stands out from our other projects. The client set us the most difficult task, and its implementation showed what we are capable of, – the vice-ICM President of Production Nathan Reynolds.

The aquarium is still open today. However, it cannot be said that there were no problems at all. From time to time, shopping center visitors have to observe leaks, as well as an entertaining picture of how divers seal the aquarium from the inside with sealant.

However, in the press service of Aviapark, what they saw is called phenomena that do not pose a danger. For example, in July 2019, when visitors once again noticed leaking water, it was reported that this was not a leak, but a planned annual replacement of hermetic seams on the rings that go around the aquarium.

The possibility of repeating the German “Hollywood” scenario in Aviapark is denied. According to the press service, a special design will save the aquarium from an emergency: seven metal rings that encircle the cylinder and contain pressure and temperature changes.

Berlin Radisson Blu Hotel

Berlin Radisson Blu Hotel

A photo: REUTERS

Will the seven rings protect us

Seven protective rings, which were not on the German “AquaDom” – this is absolutely our know-how. At one time, the domestic company Mosbioengineering came up with the initiative to install them. The company lost the tender to the Americans, however, despite this, insisted that metal rings be introduced into the design. Also, it was Russian engineers who calculated and provided the Americans with data on construction loads, on the power of engineering communications and on the thickness of acrylic panels.

However, it is worth noting that the rings were also used in the design of the aquarium in Oceania. They did not save the aquarium from leaks (although, it is possible that they prevented a more unfortunate outcome of events).

By the way, in the spring of this year, the American company ICM, which provides continuous operation and maintenance of the aquarium in Aviapark, ceased its functions. Now all functions for the maintenance of the object are performed by the domestic company “Aqua Logo”.

Are acrylic panels unsafe?

The official investigation in Germany has not yet been completed, but it is already clear that acrylic panels are not as safe as they were positioned by the manufacturer Reynold and its subsidiary ICM. If twenty years ago it was believed that acrylic glass is practically invulnerable, even blow it up, even shoot it, operation has shown that this is not the case, and even more: fragments of a burst aquarium are dangerous for people (previously this option was not considered at all).

Since the Shanghai incident, there have been speculations that the reason for the “explosion” of the acrylic panel could be long-term (for two years) exposure to ultraviolet radiation, temperature difference, as well as the composition of acrylic, which could contain bubbles. This, in particular, was written in the American aquarium magazine “Advanced Aquarist” (“Advanced Aquarist”).

However, this did not harm the global authority of American panels, since everything was attributed to poor-quality Chinese production.

In the current situation, you will have to disentangle yourself. Glass was produced by a reputable American company that monopolized the market and made a lot of efforts to make aquariums in shopping centers and hotels become fashionable.

A scuba diver could work inside a huge aquarium.

A scuba diver could work inside a huge aquarium.

A photo: REUTERS

Who tensed up

– The explosion of the giant aquarium “AquaDom” put the managers of super-technical aquariums on alert, – writes press morocco.

Moroccans have a lot to worry about. Their “AquaDrim” was built in 2012 according to the project of the German “AquaDom”moreover, the conditions in Morocco are worse than in Germany: the creators had to take into account the possibility of earthquakes.

The Americans, of course, again said that everything was very reliable, but who would believe them now.

Lithuania has questions. Their “Baltic Mall Aquarium” in Kaunas is the work of the same American company. Although the Lithuanian aquarium is not so big: only 163,000 liters, but it was built in 2005, that is, it is only three years younger than the German one. Who will guarantee that acrylic has not “tired” over the years?

According to reviews, another brainchild of the company – a panoramic aquarium in the Turkish Mardan Palace Hotel – is in poor condition. The owners do not have enough money to support it.

Well, the news that the company has built the largest cylindrical aquarium in Chongqing, China, is perceived not as a triumph of engineering, but as the creation of a new potential danger.

Whether the Americans will be able to restore the reputation and trust in their panels remains to be seen.

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