2016-02-25 / Front Page

Exploration Center Has 'Risen from the Ruins'

By Jack Kelly


Save The Bay volunteer Rachelle Amundson (R) holds a spider crab for Claire Huntingford, age 4, Cooper Huntingford, age 2, and Grandma Hastings to view and hold themselves. 
(Photos by Jack Kelly) Save The Bay volunteer Rachelle Amundson (R) holds a spider crab for Claire Huntingford, age 4, Cooper Huntingford, age 2, and Grandma Hastings to view and hold themselves. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium, located in the Rotunda at Newport’s Easton’s Beach, offers a warm respite during bleak and cold winter days. The center, which was ravaged and heavily damaged by storm surges during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, has risen from the ruins to become one of the region’s favorite family destinations.

According to Save The Bay’s aquarist, Adam Kovarsky, “We have seen great crowds this winter. We offer scavenger hunts where youngsters visit every exhibit searching for marine creatures or educational stations. As the hunt progresses, participants are encouraged to pet a shark and hold starfish, crabs, and other aquatic creatures in their hands, as they learn the intricacies of habitat and environment. Parents also seem to enjoy this activity and share in their children’s wonder of discovery.”


A red sea anemone on display. A red sea anemone on display. Kovarsky was quick to give credit to local fishermen, conservationists and volunteers who donate most of the marine life found at the aquarium. “Every creature we have on display has come from Narragansett Bay or local coastal waters, including our collection of tropical fish,” Kovarsky said.

A recent visit to the aquarium, on a day when the temperature hovered in the single digits, revealed a large number of families engaged in their own journeys of discovery. Choruses of “oohs” and “aahs” could be heard as budding young scientists learned about the aquarium’s denizens from Save The Bay’s staff. “We couldn’t do this without the interns and volunteers,” Kovarsky said. “They are the reason we are so successful.”


A calico lobster. This pigmentation mutation is found in approximately 1 in 30 million lobsters. A calico lobster. This pigmentation mutation is found in approximately 1 in 30 million lobsters. There are amazing displays available for viewing, beginning with the “Big Fish of Narragansett Bay” exhibit. Inside a large tank donated by the Boston Aquarium are a number of large game fish native to Rhode Island waters, including a 29-inch striped bass, black sea bass, tautog (or blackfish as it is locally known), summer flounder, and many others.

One specimen, a snowy grouper, is a native of much warmer southern waters. This fish was among a group of a half-dozen, six-inch young fish found in a crab pot last spring by local shell fisherman Grampy Braman.

It has grown to a length of approximately 18 inches while at the aquarium. “We only kept this one and donated the others to surrounding New England aquariums. This guy will eventually grow to a length of about four feet and weigh about 80 pounds. We will most likely have to donate it to a larger aquarium later,” Kovarsky explained.

Other exhibits feature horseshoe crabs, a living dinosaur species that has existed for 300 million years, skates, sea horses, pipefish, endangered turtle species, smooth dogfish sharks, and so much more. Nearly 60 marine life species are represented at the aquarium, with new specimens added on a regular basis.

The aquarium's winter hours are Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. It is open daily during school vacations. For more information, visit savebay.org or call 401-272-3540.

Return to top