100 Mile Museum: WHOI's Ocean Science Exhibit Center
By: Joanne Briana-Gartner, May 2, 2012
JOANNE BRIANA-GARTNER - Interactive displays bring land-lubbers one step closer to the fascinating world lurking below the ocean's surface at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Ocean Science Exhibit Center.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Ocean Science Exhibit Center opened for the season in April—and having visited it twice already my question is this: is there anything in the ocean that they don't study at WHOI?
Hydrothermal vents, continental drift, dolphin language, toxic algae, whale entanglement in fishing lines, oil spills, the Antarctic, the Titanic—WHOI's got it covered.
Planet Ocean, a short video shown in the Center's basement auditorium introduces visitors to various undersea mysteries being studied at WHOI.
If you go...
WHOI's Ocean Science Exhibit Center
15 School Street, Woods Hole
Opening hours: 10 AM- 4:30 PM
May - October
Monday - Saturday
November - December
Tuesday - Friday
No admission fee, but a suggested donation of $2 helps support the Center.
No parking either, so use that noggin to figure out how to get to Woods Hole without taking your car!
This summer WHOI's draw will be its connection to the Titanic. The Exhibit Center has a small room devoted to the ship—which sank almost precisely 100 years ago—and the high-tech WHOI submersibles that played major roles in locating and photographing the wreck.
One of those submersibles is Alvin, the little submersible that could. One of very few human-occupied submersibles, this vehicle has been instrumental in several high-profile WHOI expeditions beginning with the location of a missing hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean Sea in 1966 and the exploration of hydrothermal vents when they were first discovered in the 1970s.
The Alvin display at the Exhibit Center goes through great lengths, using bowling balls and elephant analogies, to educate those of us not of the scientific persuasion about what it's like 15,000 feet below the surface of the water. There's some serious pressure—an example made incredibly clear by the shrunken Styrofoam cup display.
I remember first seeing one of these in high school math class—my teacher's husband worked at WHOI—and wondering then why we don't submerse all our Styrofoam waste under water. If the stuff doesn’t biodegrade, at least we can shrink it.
Best of all in the Alvin display is the life-sized section of the submersible, complete with looping video of what you might see out of Alvin's portholes and a bevy of switches, buttons, and knobs to turn, flip, and adjust.
Also in the Center, visitors can check out invertebrates under a microscope, compare themselves in height to emperor penguins and polar bears, and read about research on whether or not whales get the bends. I told you: WHOI studies everything.
For a small building, the Center sports an extensive gift shop and pedals sundries ranging from the erudite and educational to the silly and even kinda gross.