Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bringing Back Memories of the Bay

BELOW THE SURFACE

Jennifer Packard
Communications Intern
When speaking to people about Narragansett Bay, it doesn't take long before a deep appreciation and sense of history come out. Fond memories and ties to Narragansett Bay are strong, and add multi-layered aspects to Rhode Islanders’ lives.

At Save The Bay’s Exploration Center & Aquarium in Newport, visitors are reminded, or learn for the first time, of hundreds of plants, animals and other sea life that call the Bay home. These connections spark memories and conversation. 

“We love coming here; the kids love it,” said Maria Santos of Newport as she sat at the crafts table making a lobster hat with her son, Anthony.  “I remember when [the Center was] damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  I'm so glad they were able to rebuild it.”

A dogfish shark swims in one of the tanks 
“We have to keep it clean,” added Maria’s son, Anthony, while talking about the Bay.

The Easton’s Beach location draws people in with its kid-friendly touch tanks, its knowledgeable educators, and the hundreds of Bay creatures available to see and touch. Kevin Germaine, on a visit with his wife and kids, watched as the smooth dogfish sharks swam around the large pool in the exhibit in the back. 

“I didn't even know they lived in the Bay. That’s what is so great about this place,” said Kevin. “We're learning things we didn't know before. The staff is great, too!”

A skate stops to say hello
Kathy G. also expressed her excitement for the Bay. “It’s a great memory because my husband used to fish on Narragansett Bay when he was young. Now we can take Brandon and it’s like a tradition.” 

Brandon, her son, smiled as he stuck his hand in the tank to touch a skate as it floated by. “These are cool!” he said, excitedly.

Much of the sea life may be familiar to some residents, who have walked the beaches and spent time wading in the Bay’s waters, but invariably many of the creatures at the Exploration Center end up surprising people. 

“I had no idea there were seahorses in the Bay,” Pat Martone said as she watched five of them glide gracefully through the seahorse and pipefish tank. “They are my favorite. They're so delicate!” 

The skates living in the Bay surprised Rob Pacheco. He pointed to a rectangular shape casing through the water. “I’ve seen those things on the beach my whole life and didn't know they were eggs from the skates.” 
A seahorse found at the Exploration Center
Photo by Jack Kelly

When asked whether he had seen a difference in Narragansett Bay’s condition from long ago, Rob didn't hesitate to answer. “Oh yeah, it’s so much better than it used to be. It’s cleaner. I know Save The Bay does tremendous work for it.”

It is clear when speaking with Exploration Center visitors that the Center is more than an aquarium where one comes face-to-face with sea life in the Bay; it is a place where lifelong relationships and memories are revealed.


- Jennifer

Jennifer Packard is studying creative writing at Rhode Island College

The Exploration Center & Aquarium is open daily 10a.m. - 4p.m. through Labor Day.