Two popular science centers bring deep-sea adventures to the Balboa Fun Zone and beyond.
Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest emerged earlier this month when two popular educational centers joined forces: ExplorOcean and Discovery Cube Orange County — together attracting more than 600,000 visitors a year — merged to form one stellar outpost that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math for inquisitive young minds.
“The merger was a way for both nonprofits to really expand their ocean-oriented content,” says Dan Nasitka, the Discovery Science Foundation’s director of communications. “The alignment was an easy decision with two organizations that had essentially the same mission statement.” Both aim to inspire and educate our community through science-based programs and exhibits.
The Ocean Quest outpost satellite will inject fresh fun into the tired 80-year-old amusement park, first with a traveling exhibition called “Shipwreck! The Exhibition.” Through Sept. 11, curious kids can learn about Odyssey Marine Exploration’s excavation of the SS Republic, a steamship that was lost in a hurricane and sank off the coast of Georgia in 1865 while on its way from New York to New Orleans.
The ship was located about 100 miles off the coast of Savannah in 2003, and about 14,000 treasures as well as 50,000 coins were salvaged by the Tampa, Florida-based archaeology company. Many are on display in museums throughout the country.
“We have a full-size replica of Zeus, the remotely operated vehicle (at 50 feet by 50 feet, the ROV is about the size of a large SUV) that Odyssey used — over a couple of years — to bring up old coins, bottles and other collectibles from the ship,” Dan says.
At the exhibit, kids will also have the opportunity to pilot Zeus to new depths via virtual reality, learn about history and archaeology and how they tie into science, and carefully examine shipwrecked items on a 10-foot-tall, touch-screen map (“High-resolution imagery allows you to zoom in on artifacts!” says Dan). Artifacts appear on screen just as they did on the sunken ship.
You’ll also learn about the many risks of taking to the high seas, including tumultuous weather and how it’s predicted — as well as how storms can sink the very ships you’ll explore. A Hurricane Simulator even allows “brave guests” to experience winds blowing up to 75 miles per hour!
When you’ve studied the SS Republic and other ships on display, test your shipwreck knowledge at the Maritime Memory Match game: Pair images of ships with the salvaged treasures discovered at their wreckage sites.
An Ocean Lab just outside the exhibit features two touch tanks, putting marine creatures at kids fingertips; a station for learning to tie sailor knots; a botany display.
For a truly wild ocean experience, check out Discover Cube’s “main club” activities and summer camps, and visit our local sea lions aboard a 45-foot education vessel, learn about wildlife on Newport’s Back Bay, and much more. discoverycube.org/oc
Written by Ashley Breeding is a full-time magazine editor and freelance writer. Splitting her time between Palm Springs and Orange County, Calif., she covers feature stories, fitness & outdoors, architecture & design, fashion, health & beauty.