Touch tanks let kids see, feel sea creatures
By Nick B. Reid
Hampton Union, July 9, 2013
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Aubrie Reynolds, 4, of Boston feels a mutant lobster that
has three odd claws where his lone right claw should be.
Ellen Goethel, the proprietor of Explore the Ocean World,
received the unique lobster from Pete Tilton, a local fisherman.
HAMPTON — Hampton residents asked for an educational touch tank on the beach, and now they've got two up and running on Ocean Boulevard.
The Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation won the bid to fill the small space available in the Seashell Complex and officially opened for business on June 29. Meanwhile, the same day, Explore the Ocean World opened a slightly larger space about a half-mile up the strip at 367 Ocean Boulevard.
The goal of each is about the same: to offer a place that children and adults alike can learn more about the ocean creatures that live on and around the local beach, as well as how to safely interact with them and ensure they can go on living in a clean and well-maintained atmosphere.
Inside the Blue Ocean Society's Discovery Center, there's a touch tank that has crabs, sea stars, sea anemones, barnacles, periwinkles, whelks, minnows and lots of different types of seaweeds, according to Cathy Silver, who helped found the Discovery Center and was working on site Wednesday. It costs $1 for adults and nothing for children 5 and under to come in, touch and learn about the animals and stormwater runoff, and make some arts and crafts.
"That's what's in there now, but it changes every few days," said Silver.
At Explore the Ocean World, which is run by Ellen Goethel, a marine biologist who's been giving talks at schools for nearly 30 years, some more exotic creatures fill her two touch tanks, and the walls are lined with baleen from various whales, jaws from sharks, a thresher shark fin and more.
Goethel, who's married to David Goethel, a local commercial fisherman, gets all kinds of oddities from her fishing connections that she's been toting around in her SUV for years when she didn't have a home base from which to operate. All those things now are covering every inch of her shop, which is larger than the Seashell space that she also vied for. Admission to Explore the Ocean World is $6, or $5 with a coupon available at the door.
In addition to the types of creatures in the Blue Ocean touch tanks, Explore the Ocean World has a few special additions, such as a very large deep-sea spiny crab, a deep-sea red mud star and a mutated lobster that has three small claws on its right side instead of one large one.
Goethel said Pete Tilton from Defiant Lobster Co. found the mutant and gave it to her, though the lobster itself isn't so excited about its deformity.
"If he can't see it, he can't figure out how to use it," Goethel said. "He keeps grabbing himself."
With so much to take in at Explore the Ocean World, Goethel doesn't so much give a tour as introduce customers to what the shop has to offer and chime in with some fun facts.
"It's a different concept," she said. "We take them around and give a little bit of the biology, then we let them go around and touch the animals and ask questions."
As a 4-year-old girl marvels at a large sea star — Goethel said sometime dozens of years ago scientists decided to stop using the term "starfish," since it isn't a fish — Goethel informs her with a tidbit about how sea stars can regenerate after they've suffered an injury that rips off one of their rays.
"As long as there's a cell from the central disc, they'll regenerate into a whole new sea star," Goethel said. Aubrie Reynolds, 4, of Boston, Mass., was impressed.
Explore the Ocean World also displays information about local fishermen and evolving fishing techniques, as well as a New Hampshire Public Television documentary that was featured as part of a "Windows to the Wild" segment that stars her husband and his boat.
Goethel, who's offering birthday parties at her shop, has also worked out a deal with the Hampton Academy principal so students who've made the honor roll can bring in their latest report card to get in free.
"This has been a dream for 30 years," she said. "It's been in my head and it came together really well."
The Blue Ocean Society Discovery Center, in addition to its daily arts and crafts availability and touch tanks, opens an hour early at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a story time with arts and crafts. It also organizes a tidal nature walk and beach cleanup every day at 5 p.m. in which customers can sign up to help keep the beach looking good.
"Part of our mission is having people care for the critters as well, not only who they are but how we can protect them," said Rebecca Bolton, a staffer at the Discovery Center and a six-year veteran of the Blue Ocean Society. "I think there's a lot of interest in creating a better environment."
Bolton explained to a group of kids at the Discovery Center how stormwater runoff affects the ocean and encouraged them to sign up for a weekly drawing in which the winner adopts a whale. A world map tacked on the Discovery Center's wall showed that even as it was just a week old, visitors had come from as far as Central America and the Midwest.
Both shops can be found on Facebook: Blue Ocean at www.facebook.com/BlueOceanDiscoveryCenter and Explore the Ocean World at www.facebook.com/pages/Explore-the-Ocean-World-LLC/168468976541545.
Explore the Ocean World at 367 Ocean Boulevard is Hampton
Beach’s newest attraction. Owner Ellen Goethel is a marine biologist.
Marine education facilities bring family fun to beach
Hampton Union, July 9, 2013
Beach officials have always billed Hampton Beach as a premier destination for family fun. It has arcades, miniature golf, a water slide park, great restaurants and of course the beach itself, which was once again recognized as a "superstar beach" for its water quality.
But what was lacking —until now— was a place where you could take your children and allow them to learn, explore and expand their knowledge of marine life and the sea.
Now Hampton Beach has two such places truly adding to its attraction as a family destination.
Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation recently opened up Blue Ocean Discovery Center in the retail space in the Seashell Complex.
Explore the Ocean World, an educational program run by a marine biologist, just opened up a slightly larger space about a half-mile up the strip at 367 Ocean Blvd. The goal of each is about the same: to offer a place where children and adults alike can learn more about the ocean creatures that live in and around the local beach.
Both offer marine life tanks where visitors can gently interact with small sea creatures. They also have artifacts and interactive educational displays about maritime history.
Both places fill a void at Hampton Beach and are run by knowledgeable people that provide hands-on education.
One of the volunteers for the Blue Ocean Discovery Center is Winnacunnet High School teacher Cathy Silver, who was a 2005 recipient of National Marine Educators Association Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.
Explore the Ocean World is run by Ellen Goethel, a marine biologist who has been giving talks at schools for nearly 30 years. She showcases interesting marine life found by her husband, a commercial fisherman.
There is also a vast array of other items to touch and explore aside from the touch tank. Exhibits include dried marine mammal parts such as baleen and bones, shark jaws, a display of fishing gear, dried shells and exoskeletons from other animals from the Gulf of Maine.
Goethel's place also offers information about the local history of fishing, along with a biologist on hand to answer questions and periodic visits by local lobstermen.
The Blue Ocean Society Discovery Center, offers story time with arts and crafts and also organizes a tidal nature walk.
Blue Ocean also stresses the environmental problems related to trash on the beach, including the dangers of entanglement or ingestion to marine mammals, fish and birds.
The organization also sponsors numerous clean-ups of the beach.
Hampton Beach is lucky to have both places.
These two new education facilities are a perfect place for everyone to visit and bring their children. They're also another thing to do when the weather is not cooperative at the beach.
Admission to Explore the Ocean World is $6, or $5 with a coupon available at the door.
The Blue Ocean Discovery Center costs $1 for adults and nothing for children 5 and under.