Monday, May 4, 2015

NC Bogue Bank, Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium, Fort Macon

     Welcome back to Bogue Bank, NC.  In Yesterday's Article we explored Emerald Isle and a few other places on the lower two thirds of the island.  Today we are visiting a couple of the attractions on the upper end of the island.

     First up today is the second of three North Carolina Aquariums.  We visited the First Aquarium at Fort Fisher last week.


     All three of these aquariums are operated by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

     The big story at this museum is the children.  As in school children.  It seems better than 100,000 school kids visit this place each year.


      Here we meet Julie Powers, public relations coordinator for the museum.  Julie was most helpful and has a wonderful sense of humor.

          Julie is pictured at a diagnostic station with a rubber turtle.  Children that visit this area of the museum are assigned one of these, each of which is equipped with a microchip unique to it that prompts the diagnostic station to diagnose the turtle with a particular ailment.

     The children, most of whom don white lab coats, then take the turtle to a treatment station that recommends a treatment regimen for that particular turtle.

     The kids really get into it - they get to feel like a marine veterinarian for a bit.

     Here are a few of the treatments - 

     When I was a kid, we never got to give rubber turtles an enema.  It might have launched me on a whole different career path.  I guess times are a-changin.

     After putting their turtle through the paces, they are led to a wall that prompts them to "return the turtle to the sea," which really is a secret chute where the turtle awaits in its next victim in a plastic bin.

     There are lots of things to climb on and play at all throughout the aquarium - a necessity if you are going to keep children engaged.

     Nobody has to polish this bronze turtle's back.  About every child I saw wanted their picture taken on its back.

     There are a couple dozen tanks, each representing an aquatic ecosystem in North Carolina.  This following tank, the largest, holds over 300,000 gallons of water.  It also has glass viewing areas on three different sides. 

     Inside this tank is a replica of a WWII German U-Boat sunk by the coast guard off of the NC coast back in the 1940's.  

     All manner of fish and shark circle the tank, with a large turtle that seems to always swim the opposite direction of the established flow.

     The children are mesmerized by this big tank - they practically have to be dragged away.

     Ecosystems from the mountains clear out to offshore reefs are represented, and the tanks are all positioned at the eye level of children.   This following one is a swam environment with gar fish and a big snapping turtle.

     Here is one that mimics some of the inland fresh water lakes.

     Even a golf course pond with Koi.

     There is also several displays that include luminous jellyfish and other critters.

     Outside is a walkway through the tidal marsh area, complete with numerous binoculars and telescopes so you can view animals in the wild.

     It is a great serene place if you want a time-out for a few hours, but if you are looking to wear children out it is perfect.  Any energy they don't burn up inside can be consumed on a large outdoor playground.

     And finishing Bogue Bank, on the extreme opposite end of Emerald Isle is Fort Macon.

     This is a key defensive spot as it sits right beside the entryway to the harbor for Beaufort NC.  The above aerial view was taken of the movie screen during on of the fort's theater presentations.  If you look close, you can see that the fort is five sided. This was built in the 1820's - 1840's era of Savannah's Fort PulaskiFort Jackson and Charleston's Fort Sumter.

     There are great beaches here, but being at the end of the island the currents are tricky.  There are ample picnic areas, but no overnight camping.

     The visitor center is well designed and spacious.

     There is a large theater that several movies rotate playing in a loop, and a museum area containing artifacts and information on local flora and fauna.

     The fort itself is in pretty good shape given that it was abandoned for several decades in the late 1900's and early 2000's.

     It was used by the confederacy during the civil war, and seized by the Union in 1862 in a one day battle.

    The United States had forces garrisoned here in the Spanish American War and again during WWII.

     I have always loved huge wooden doors on castles and forts.

     It is amazing to me that you can hang an object that weighs hundreds of pounds so precisely that it can be swung open and shut with two fingers.

     One neat thing is a battle scar from the civil war.  It seems a Union cannonball ran right down one of the sets of stone steps, nicking the edge of each step along the way.

     I added the white arrows so it is a bit easier to see.

     There are areas of the fort dedicated to showing what life was like for the soldiers that were garrisoned here.  One of the biggest complaints in their diaries and letters was the lack of decent drinking water.

     Here is what the storeroom might have looked like back in the 1860's>

      Several areas also depict life here during WWII.

     The rangers were all pretty tied up today as there was a retirement ceremony for a fellow from the local coast guard station.

     The park, fort and associated museum are all free - and there is over a mile of beach that isn't that heavily occupied too.

     That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd."

     These were two of the Coast Guard Fellows that were carrying the various flags and banners relevant to the ceremony.

      And todays parting shot - a new car accessory.

     I have seen the neon lights under the body, but not on the wheels where they rotate and flash as the car moves down the road.  I wonder how the electricity is run to them, as the lights are inside the wheel itself.  Anyway, it may be all the new rage, destined ultimately to the same trash heap with curb feelers, bobble heads in the back window and coon-tail rear view mirror accessories.

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Have an awesome day !!

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