STORY & PHOTOS: Ocean Wise AquaVan makes landing in Prince Rupert

Abeille Ambach tries her hand at touching a bat starfish from the AquaVan. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
Daphne Austin tells visitors about the bat starfish, and brings it out for a sample feel. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
A vermillion starfish from the AquaVan. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
A pair of sea urchins. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
(Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
(Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
(Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
The AquaVan made a one-day stop at Coast Mountain Community College in Prince Rupert. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

The Ocean Wise AquaVan returned to Prince Rupert on Saturday, drawing crowds of both young and old to experience some first-hand knowledge about local marine life.

An undertaking of the Vancouver Aquarium, the mobile education centre carries with it a number of artifacts and live specimens. Numerous types of starfish, sea urchins, hermit crabs, sea anemones and more were on hand for people to touch and learn about.

“It’s a space where we have a lot of intertidal invertebrates,” Daphne Austin, mobile programs coordinator with Ocean Wise, explained about the mobile tank, one of the most popular draws at the event.

Ocean Wise mobile programs coordinator Tamara Loney shows off a skull to a curious young visitor. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

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Young kids were especially eager to explore what was in the tank. “I think a lot of them were unsure at first, but they really enjoy it when they do,” Austin said about kids getting the opportunity to touch some of the animals. “The expressions we get are awesome.”

Austin also uses the event to show people some of the ways they can make life easier for these creatures by making some small changes themselves. “There’s a lot that people can do in their everyday lives to help the ocean and help our planet. Buying sustainable seafood, which especially here in Prince Rupert is a really important message to have,” she said.

“Also reducing the amount of plastic that’s in your home, or reducing the amount of fossil fuels that you’re burning,” Austin concluded.

Tamara Loney captures the attention of her young audience with a massive whale bone. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

(Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

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Caitlin Birdsall is manager of Ocean Wise’s North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative. She spoke to some of the benefits of the AquaVan’s visit, even in a coastal community.

Caitlin Birdsall shows off some of the artifacts at the cetacean station. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

“We are really happy that the AquaVan could come by, because it’s a great way to bring the ocean to life for people,” Birdsall said. “Even though we live on the ocean, a lot of people in Prince Rupert might not have as much access to learning about the animals.”

“The AquaVan brings not only the live invertebrates to show us animals in our backyards, but also lots of cool artifacts that we might not normally see, like the sea otter pelts and shark jaws,” Birdsall added. “It really allows people to connect with what’s happening in that great blue abyss.”


Alex Kurial | Journalist
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