Woods Hole, Cape Cod, MA
We were now effectively on the last planned stop of our New England 2012 trip. I had an interest in visiting Woods Hole, MA, since it is the home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Institute, a private, non-profit research facility. When I was in high school, many years ago, my interest in aquariums and related fishy topics pointed me in the direction of the study of Ichthyology and, under different circumstances, I might have ended up studying oceanography in the Boston area. As chance would have it, my University life took a slightly different direction, and I ended up graduating with a Science degree in Microbiology with a focus on Food Microbiology. It was, nonetheless, interesting to visit this part of the world which I had only dreamed of seeing when I was younger.
Interestingly, whether by accident or by design, the colors of the Woods Hole fire hydrants complement the colors of the research vessels :-).
There are a number of research buildings which are open to the public during certain periods of the day but, since we were arriving in the afternoon, we only had time to visit a couple of spots. While I headed off to the aquarium, Adell headed off to the museum.
The Woods Hole Science Aquarium is definitely not as large as some public aquariums that I have visited. The portion visible to the public could easily be housed in a small corner of one of the two buildings comprising the Tennessee Aquarium that I visited in February 2011.
Unlike larger public aquariums, the Woods Hole Science Aquarium provides easy access for visitors wanting to see a bit of what it looks like “behind the scenes”. I readily admit that most of my time while there was spent looking at the backs of the tanks rather than through the front glass. Not as pretty a view but, for me, definitely more interesting.
The water in the tanks is in constant circulation with water from the tanks flowing downward through pipes in the floor to filtration systems in the basement (which I didn’t get to see). Since the location is on the ocean, saltwater is readily available and doesn’t need to be reconstituted like I do for my marine tank at home.
Their bioball container was definitely a bit larger than the one that I once had for my home aquarium set-up.
Nestled in among all of this equipment, there was a touch tank where the “two finger only” rule applied.
Looking in through the front of the tanks, provided a glimpse at a number of the species of fish and coral that could be found in the Woods Hole area or in waters south of that location. Lighting was rather subdued, so photographing moving fish in low light was not optimal, but the following should provide some idea of what was in the display tanks. Sorry about the glare from the glass but I often couldn’t get an angle to eliminate the glare completely.
Many species, such as the Lion Fish, are mainstays of most public aquariums so it was not unusual to see them in a tank at Woods Hole. However, the Woods Hole display also included more information about the fish and its bad impact rather than focusing just on its unique color and exotic finnage.
Although many of the fish species lacked any exciting coloration, there were certainly exceptions to that situation.
Even if the fish is primarily black and white, even those two colors combined with an interesting shape can be quite beautiful, especially when the fish would be too big to fit in my 90 gallon home aquarium. Of course, any fish with an unusual shape is worth observing for a little longer.
Outside of the building, there was a seal display, but I couldn’t wait for the feeding time since I wanted to take a quick look at the exhibit center before it closed for the day, so I was soon off walking at a quick pace along the main street of Woods Hole.
The main street of the community of Woods Hole runs alongside the shoreline with an outer harbor on one side and an inner harbor on the other side. With Hurricane Sandy expected to come ashore in only a couple of days, much of the talk on the streets related to when and where Sandy might come ashore and what impact it might have on the Cape Cod area.
Update: After our visit, Hurricane Sandy came ashore further south in the vicinity of New York City and the New Jersey shoreline and caused significant damage in that are of the country.
It’s always interesting to walk along a street in a different part of the world. Never certain what new and different thing you might see. For me, this was the first time that I had seen a solar-powered compacting garbage can. I rather wanted to try it out but didn’t have any garbage with me at the time.
It wasn’t too far to walk to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Exhibit Center but I was rather surprised to find that it wasn’t housed in one of the many square, red brick buildings along the way, but was rather in a white building on a bit of a hillside. The mural on the wall by the entrance gave it away!
For my part, the main display item of interest to me was the deep sea exploration vessel, Alvin. At this location, visitors can step inside a full-size model of the inner sphere of this famous deep sea submersible which has seen exploratory and scientific research duties as diverse as locating an atomic bomb and exploring the Titanic in addition to pure research and exploration activities. Its development in 1966 was one of the reasons for my interest in oceanography at the time. (Alvin history and important dives – If this link doesn’t work, locate the information through the main page of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.)
After looking at all of the controls inside of the Alvin sphere, the controls didn’t look too complex in our car as we drove off into the sunset and left Woods Hole behind.