This morning we awoke at the Walmart of Onset, Massachusetts to an early thunderstorm. The weather alerts on our phones warned of severe lightning and thunder with a slight chance of a tornado. We all gathered in the living room to watch the lightning and the incredibly loud cracks of thunder. The storm passed in less than thirty minutes and by the time we were packed up and ready to head out the sun was shining.
Our first stop this morning was the Woods Hole Science Aquarium to watch the seal feeding program. Woods Hole Village is a very small town with narrow streets and almost no parking. Ben dropped us off and had to squeeze his way back through town (not an easy task when you are almost 60 feet long!) to park at a shopping center several miles away. He rode the trolley back and met up with us after the seal feeding program. It is a very popular summer activity and the crowd was already well formed by the time Ben dropped us off:
The exhibit currently houses two Harbor Seals named LuSeal and Bumper. They are both rescue seals that were rescued as infants. LuSeal was found at a nearby beach and the rescuers noticed she was underweight. They cared for her and once she regained her health, released her back into the wild. A few weeks later she turned up again, underweight and seemingly unable to care for herself. The trainer called her case “failure to thrive” and said she would have died in the wild but is doing well in the aquarium. Bumper was found on the beach after being attacked by a shark as an infant. The rescuers were afraid his wounds were so severe that he would lose his tail. Bumper survived, but an infection led to blindness and he will live out his life here in the aquarium with LuSeal.
The seals are fed twice a day and require 8 pounds of fish per day. The trainer led the seals through a set of exercises designed to help him assess their health. He also brushed their teeth. The seals have been taught to respond to signals, words, and in Bumper’s case, claps. After each completed task, the trainer gave them two fish from their individual buckets. The trainer told us that Harbor Seals are quite intelligent and the second set of tasks he asked them to perform were to provide novelty, something they wouldn’t otherwise get in captivity. Here, LuSeal and Bumper respond to the trainer’s command to go up and over the rock ledge:
They also leapt through a hoop, jumped out of the water, and dove for rings. After the seal feeding program finished, we went inside the Aquarium to view the fish tanks and other displays (photos by M and B):
The exhibit continued upstairs and we could see the tops of the tanks we viewed below, and the kids had a chance to handle some creatures in the touch tank.
Looking out into the harbor outside the aquarium:
Our next stop was the Marine Biological Laboratory which featured displays about the research going on locally including this display about the nervous system of squid:
Along the boardwalk we could see the Research Vessel Knorr. This ship is owned by the U.S Navy and operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The ship can carry a crew of 22 and a scientific party of 32 to sea for as long as 60 days. This ship is famous for assisting in the discovery of the Titanic wreck:
A little further down the boardwalk, Research Vessel Atlantis was visible. We were told it is headed out on a research mission tomorrow. According to the WHOI website:
“The research vessel (R/V) Atlantis is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by WHOI for the oceanographic community. It is one of the most sophisticated research vessels afloat, and it is specifically outfitted for launching and servicing the Alvin human occupied submersible. Delivered to Woods Hole in April 1997, Atlantis was built with six science labs and storage spaces, precision navigation systems, seafloor mapping sonar, and satellite communications. The ship’s three winches, three cranes, machine shop, and specialized hangars were specifically designed to support Alvin and other vehicles of the National Deep Submergence Facility.”
The view as we continued along the boardwalk:
Our next stop was a visitor center operated by the Coalition to Save Buzzards Bay. The kids spent a bit of time handling the sea stars and whelks in the touch tank:
This was the first time M handled a knobbed whelk with it’s owner still inside:
B is showing me where this sea star is growing a new appendage:
Our next stop was WHOI’s Ocean Science Exhibit Center to learn about the deep submersible vessel Alvin, the discovery of the Titanic wreck, and ongoing research sponsored by WHOI. Here the kids are exploring a full size model of the titanium pressure hull of Alvin. This compartment is occupied by three adults during a dive:
This model of the Titanic (which took 3000 hours to build) depicts the luxury liner as it appeared one hour after striking the iceberg. Notice how the bow of the ship is quite close to the water while the stern is visibly coming out of the water:
Upstairs we enjoyed several displays about marine life:
This display about the Remus SharkCam was very impressive. Developed to study Great White Sharks, it was deployed in 2013 near Guadalupe Island in Mexico and captured spectacular video. You can watch the video here and see a shark actually attack the camera. The camera is on display and you can run your fingers along the jagged marks left by the shark:
Our last stop in Woods Hole was the Woods Hole History Museum:
There were several model ships including this ship in a bottle. The sign next to it claimed it is the second smallest ship in a bottle according to the Guinness Book of World Records:
Scale model of Woods Hole Village:
Next door, this gentleman told us about the history of local boat making. The sailboat we are gathered around was made by a local and had a pivoting mast. At the time, the bridge in town was made of concrete and was quite low. The builder of this ship created a special fitting so he could drop the mast, slip under the bridge, and then raise it back up as he continued out of the harbor. Today the bridge is made of steel and raises for the local boats to pass:
We caught the trolley back to the RV and had lunch before continuing on to the second half of our day exploring Plimoth Plantation. Since we have spent the last two years in the West learning about the Gold Rush and early Pioneers, I was excited to begin our study of the early colonists starting with Plimoth Plantation and the Pilgrims!
Thee are three sites that make up the Plimoth Plantation Heritage experience: Plimoth Plantation Village and Wampanoag homesite, The Mayflower II, and the Plimoth Grist Mill. Since we arrived in late afternoon, many of the period actors had already left. However, there were still several people to interact with. The kids really enjoyed hearing the actors speak in 17th century English!
The Wampanoag homesite was quiet, but a volunteer was seated near this large Wetu, which I mistook for a meeting house. She told us that is was a four generation winter home that slept up to 15 people:
Next we visited the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original Mayflower, built in 1957:
While below, we listened to a volunteer describe in great detail how difficult the 66 day journey really was for the passengers and crew. Looking around, it was hard to image 102 passengers living so close together in dark, cramped quarters with hardly any ventilation.
Just a block away from the Mayflower II, we viewed Plymouth Rock. Although legend holds that this rock was the point where the pilgrims first stepped off the ship when they arrived in Plymouth, it wasn’t mentioned in any of the writings from the passengers. It wasn’t until over 100 years later that people began to refer to the large rock as “Plymouth Rock”:
The third and final stop for the day was the Grist Mill. We learned from the volunteer that the mill was built 16 years after the pilgrims arrived in Plymouth. Until the mill was built, they ground all of their corn by hand with wooden mortars. She told us that three to four hours each day were spent grinding!
Downstairs there were several different hands-on displays like this one showing how gears interact:
B took a turn grinding some corn:
While I was at Plimoth Plantation with the kids, Ben went on a bike ride around town:
We continued North and West to visit our Portland friends Baruch and Elise, who now live in Sharon, Massachusetts. Their driveway is pretty narrow, so their neighbors Burt and Alice generously invited us to overnight in their driveway. We had dinner together and caught up on what we’ve missed in the ten or so years since we last saw each other. See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.