Our Summer in Review: Maine State Aquarium

What a great summer. So great, in fact, that I was never able to sit long enough to write a blog post … all summer long. So it got me thinking about how much fun material I can use to write about now … throughout the slower paced fall days. Wait … who am I kidding??? Fall is just as crazy … days filled with homeschooling … and all of the scrambling to get ready for the winter and the holidays. Well, there are some wonderful highlights to our summer that I want to be sure to log here … so here is to giving this a shot.

As many of you know, I am wild for sharks. Absolutely mad for them. I even see them swimming through my mind in daydreams … daydreams that happen at least twice a day … and sometimes occur when you think I am paying close attention to what you are saying. (Whoops.) And although we have travelled to the Boston Aquarium to pet the sharks and rays in their latest exhibit … I have always wanted to visit our state’s Maine State Aquarium in West Boothbay Harbor.  And after watching this commercial, I knew I couldn’t wait to bring the family to this ocean side jewel on one of our summer excursions. So I did …

First, might I say that Boothbay Harbor, is hands down … the most beautiful harbor I have ever seen. And after 15+ years of living in Maine, this trip was the first time I had ever laid eyes on it. I was shocked. I know my New England coastal areas … from Cape Cod to Lubec. And somehow Boothbay escaped me — likely because it is not on Route 1 … and takes some purposeful planning to get to … apparently more planning than I was willing to take till this point. But wow … I was missing out. I might have gotten married here instead of Bar Harbor had I known about this place (sorry Bar Harbor).
Anywhere, there are other sights to show you about this beautiful, working harbor. But for now, I want to show you the aquarium. It was a bit off the beaten path … and took some finding … but when you find it, it is surrounded by a lovely picnic area that overlooks the west side of the harbor. Absolutely gorgeous.
We ate our Subway sandwiches by the sea … then headed in to pet sharks! As soon as we walked in the door, we all headed straight to the shark and ray touch tank. And oh the cuteness! I’ll let the pictures tell part of the story:

So much fun to just watch these guys – let alone get an opportunity to “pat” them. Apparently, we came too late to see/hear their daily shark talk. But because the staff was incredibly helpful … and appreciative of a fellow shark enthusiast, they gave another talk just for us. This “talk” ended up being more of conversation and a sort of gush fest over all sharks in general. It was fun … and I immediately fell in love with both Aimee Roderiques (the director – whom I felt like I have known my whole life) and fellow employee and shark lover, Patrick Burnham. I cannot imagine that place with more enthusiastic people at the helm. In fact, although I did not get every one’s names … the entire staff was enthusiastic and helpful … and obviously in love with our Maine coastal animals.

My favorite picture of the day??? This sweet little shark … I just want to give it a kissy … don’t you?

And ya know, there are other exhibits too. Halis reminded me of this, as I was spending much too much time for his taste with my friends the sharks. It turns out the other exhibits were pretty amazing too. For a nice tourist video of most of the exhibits, check out this video.

The touch tank here is one of the best I have seen … with much variety of the animals you can find all along the Maine coast. I love to touch everything in the sea … obsessively really … so this was another great exhibit for me. And Isaac very much enjoyed it as well. We learned much from the young man overseeing the tank … here are a few science nuggets for you all …

This is a scallop that wants to escape from me … so it open and closes its shell … trying to force water out of itself in order to propel it backwards. It sometimes uses this method to detract predators. Both of these actions can be seen in the following videos here and here. Also … see those little black spots all along the shells … both upper and lower? Wait for it — those are eyes! Yes. How cool is that. Sure, they aren’t traditional eyes like those of a mammal … but eyes none the less.

Horse shoe crabs are not crabs at all … but are more closely related to spiders. Can you see how/why? Interesting. Spiders of the sea

Sea Anemones are just plain cool looking. But have you seen their mouths? They look much like the beaks of an octopus

Crabs, are well, just plain crabby. And I love this about them. I love to try to catch them without getting snapped at. It challenges me … and probably just ticks them off … but I swear, I do it in love. This little guy rocked my world …

We also learned that sand dollars have a skeleton and “arms” that help to move them around. I wish I had thrown my macro lens on for a better look. The details of a live sand dollar are amazing
Then there was the hermit crab. The little bugger would not cooperate … even though I loved him so (and told him too).
For a small aquarium, they have some really interesting specimens. Most of which I did not photograph … as it is not easy to photograph through glass in low light situations … but I did get a few fun pics …
Halis made fun of this Lump fish … which wasn’t really nice … but I enjoyed his well, his, “uniqueness” …

There was this really interesting exhibit, which I have never seen before, even at the bigger aquariums … where you can see through the egg sacks (mermaid purses) of sharks and rays and watch as the embryos grow inside them. It was fascinating.
Many lobster fishermen bring their unusual catches to the aquarium … to share with the community. Some of them are absolutely amazing. Bi-colored, multi-colored, blue, and this white/blue one was most interesting to me. How it avoided predators to this point is beyond me …
I am not at all sure what kind of fish this next guy is, but he/she made for a pretty good picture … so I took it …
And then there was this guy … We made a love connection. It’s true. See the way he stares into my eyes? He wanted to join my aquarium at home, I know it. But there are rules that kept us apart. I told him to live long and prosper … and that we will always have this memory …


 So, that was our visit in a nutshell … awesome exhibits, shark touching, crab holding, learning new things … etc. But wait! Was that it? Nope … it got more awesome!!!

Aimee, the director of the Aquarium, and I had such a great time talking. She is so interesting and fun … and as I mentioned before, full of enthusiasm. Much to my surprise, she invited Isaac and I into the “underground lair” that is the inner workings of the aquarium! She showed us things that most people don’t get to see … and it blew my mind and made me so very happy!

I have always, always, always wanted to become a Marine Biologist. It was my life’s dream as a little girl … and still calls to me today. I took a different path, as we often do in life … and am glad for it. But boy does that ocean call to me – daily. Well, people like Aimee, who see their passion through, really inspire me … and I was thrilled to have a tour of the inner workings of the aquarium as well as to spend some of that time getting to know her better. It was a wonderful gift! And probably more than she will ever realize. (Thanks again, Aimee.)

I took a quick picture of her and Isaac (who has decided not to smile for pics anymore).

 She was so lovely. The aquarium was wonderful. Boothbay was stunning. Enjoying the day with my family was/is always priceless. I am so grateful for our day spent there … and am sure we will return next season.

If you plan a trip to coastal Maine, be sure to include Boothbay … and the Maine State Aquarium. And when you do … please send my love to the sharks.


Jodi Renshaw

About Jodi Renshaw

Jodi is a homeschooling Mom, a photographer, a wife, and a proud resident of the city of Bangor. She spends part of her time working at a locally-owned shop in the downtown area, part of her time homeschooling her favorite young man, and most of her time behind a camera lens. She often writes about adoption, family life, homeschooling, and community.