Waking up bright and early Gretta, Lucas and I were excited to get to the mainland and spend a day in the Falmouth area exploring all of the things that it offered.
We were hoping for sun, but ended up being fortunate for the rainy day because it is why we ended up at the Woods Hole Aquarium. After all, a trip to an aquarium is a perfect rainy day activity.
Just a short drive from Sea Crest into Woods Hole, where we parked and followed signs through the town to the aquarium. The first thing that caught my eye was the 17,000-galloon pool, which was home to two non-releasable seals. A sign said that the aquarium does two seal feedings a day at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
We waited in a line that we assumed was for buying tickets to enter, but when we got to the front a friendly gentleman asked us to sign our names and informed us that the aquarium is owned by the federal government and is free to the public. He pointed to an adorably decorated donation box next to the front desk with a sign encouraging any type of donation.
Once we moved passed the sign in desk I could see the first big fish tank, and although all I wanted to do was run to it and aggressively tap on the glass, I tried to show some maturity and at least pause for a few seconds to notice the informational posters along the wall that explained the history of the aquarium and what we were about to discover inside.
I found myself standing in front of the posters for a while. I learned that the aquarium is operated by NOAA’s Nation Marines Fisheries Service in partnership with the Marine Biological Laboratory, and that it is home to 140 species of fish and invertebrates that are found in New England waters, including any tropical fish that can be found in the Gulf Stream every summer.
The aquarium seemed to be one floor with the walls made of huge fish tanks full of all the marine animals. On the opposite side of the fish tanks there were dry exhibits, non-living exhibits, on whale protection, marine turtles, the science of “aging” fish, the New England marine environment, and the history of science in Woods Hole. Of course we spent multiple minutes in front of each tank searching for every thing inside and yelling to each other when spotting something first.
As I walked away from the last fish tank and thought all the fun was over, there was a staircase at the end of the hallway guiding visitors upstairs. The second floor was like a sneak-peek into the behind the scenes of an aquarium where we could see into the fish tanks from above. We were told that this was known as the “work area” and where visitors can talk to staff as they prepare fish food, feed animals, and clean tanks. I though that feature alone made this the coolest aquarium I’d ever been too, until I came across the “touch tank.” The touch tank is a long shallow tub filled with different types of marine animals and where I found myself fighting children for a turn at petting a lobster. According to the website, the touch tank is always filled with a variety of animals that may include labeled shells, lobsters, horseshoe crabs, spider crabs, helmet crabs, whelks, sea stars, and fish that don’t mind being touched.
I said goodbye to my new friend the lobster, and was sad to see the next thing was an exit sign above a backdoor. Visitors can either exit through the door to a staircase that will take them back towards the road and on with their lives, or they can circle back for a second turn at the touch tank like I did.
Eventually we made our way to the exit and outside to the seal pool. Although there was no seal show at that time, the friendly seals were putting on a little show of their own for anyone watching. They swam around doing spins and circles and would come up for air next to where visitors were standing. It was a great way to end an awesome experience.
The aquarium is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm and I strongly encourage everyone to go visit the aquarium and donate anything to the donation box.