Evan Raymond had the honour of cutting the kelp to open the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium on Saturday. — Photo by Josh Pennell/The Telegram
Some of the wonders of the ocean are now at arm’s length in the town of Petty Harbour. A new mini-aquarium had its grand opening on Saturday and the damp weather wasn’t nearly enough to drown the excitement of the children and adults who came out to take in a little of what lies beneath the waves.
Keith Mercer, a volunteer with the aquarium, spoke to the crowd about the project.
“What you’re about to see is the work of dozens of volunteers dedicating hundreds of hours to planning, designing, fundraising, renovating, scuba diving, breaking, rebuilding, tinkering and tweaking a place where children of all ages can learn about the wonders of the ocean,” he said.
The aquarium is housed in the Petty Harbour Fishermen’s Co-op building on Southside Road.
Mercer said that when the fishery was booming, much of the work of cleaning and processing the fish once landed was done in the same room that houses the mini-aquarium.
“Thanks to the co-op it will now be used to house live fish and tell stories about our oceans and the marine life in it,” said Mercer.
The aquarium is the brainchild of Melanie Knight. Knight worked at an aquarium in British Columbia for two years. It was there that she got the idea for a mini-aquarium in this province.
“I had the opportunity to work and volunteer there and learn so much,” Knight said. “I went to university here in Newfoundland and I wanted to give what I had learned there to this province that I love so much.”
The road to getting some of the ocean’s creatures into an aquarium has been a long one — seven years or so in the making for Knight.
“It’s been a dream come true and a long process,” she said.
By the look of some of the kids’ faces as they past by the aquariums and got their hands in the touch tanks, it was worth the effort. One young man who did more than just show up for opening day was Evan Raymond. Evan volunteered with the project because he said he wanted to help other young people learn more about the creatures in the ocean.
“My favourite part was that I got to work with my grandfather and help build the place,” he said.
As for why he’s so interested in sea life, Evan said he likes how the animals were all unique. It wasn’t the cod, sculpin, starfish or crabs that won Evan’s heart, though. It was the sea cucumber he said he liked best.
“When he gets scared he squirts water at you,” he exclaimed
Knight watched Evan with a satisfied smile, giving the impression that the excitement and wonder on Evan’s face was what she had worked so hard for.
For his efforts, devotion and interest, Evan was given the honour of taking the scissors in the ceremonial ribbon, but this ribbon cutting had a small oceanic twist. They cut a piece of kelp to mark the occasion.
As the kelp fell away, people poured into the room snacking on sandwiches, cookies and cakes that people had either made or bought just to make the event that much more special.
About 200 people showed up for the kelp cutting and an estimated 1,000 toured the mini aquarium throughout the day. The room was so tight with people that a starfish would have had to hold its breath to slide in.
Knight said she was thrilled at the turnout and was already looking to what the future might hold for the mini aquarium.
“The mini aquarium will hopefully not be so mini,” she said. “I think expansion is coming, but as for right now we’re happy to be open today and happy to dream big.”