Spring into Summer
COME SEE WHAT’S new at the aquarium when you kick off the summer. The aquarium is open 9am to 5pm throughout the Memorial Day holiday weekend as usual.
Programs free with admission such as animal feedings and animal encounters are offered daily throughout May. More programs, activities and occasions free with admission or membership join the line-up in early June. This includes a new bird show, and this year there is no charge to see owls, hawks and other raptors soar overhead in Big Rock Theater.
Behind-the-scenes tours continue six days a week through May for small fees in addition to admission. In June, an array of indoor tours and outdoor water-based adventures are yours for the choosing. These programs require additional fees. See the website for the full schedule of summer fun.
Bring the kids to Wild Horse Day at the aquarium, May 16 from 10am-2pm in the aquarium parking lot. This free educational and interactive event, sponsored by the National Park Service at Cape Lookout National Seashore, the NC Coastal Reserve, National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, Inc., is open to the public, rain or shine.
The “mane” event is a horse, of course, that originally came from the wild herd on Cape Lookout’s Shackleford Banks. The Shackleford horses and another wild herd on nearby Carrot Island, often in view from Beaufort’s waterfront, enchant visitors and locals alike. Both islands are uninhabited by people.
Enjoy other family-oriented fun that includes wild horse trivia and a scavenger hunt, and concludes with children taking the “Wild Horse Protector” pledge. Horse lovers of all ages can learn about the wild horse herds that have lived on the Outer Banks for centuries.
Wild horses have long roamed free on local islands, including Shackleford Banks and the Rachel Carson Reserve. The Shackleford horses are recognized as Colonial Spanish. Their origins may be something of a mystery, but the herds thrive in the wild today thanks to sound management and little human intervention. The National Park Service and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses co-manage the herd on Shackleford.
The small Rachel Carson Reserve wild horse herd, located just north of Shackleford Banks, is managed by the NC Division of Coastal Management’s North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve program.
The event is designed to share with the public the ways that they can help ensure the herds continue to thrive. Admission is required to tour the aquarium.
An Eye-Opening New Exhibit
Venom – See Beyond the Danger debuts in late May with a different perspective on some of nature’s feared – and underrated – creatures. The world is full of species that defend themselves through toxins delivered by bite, sting or touch. Scientists are discovering more and more ways to use these substances for medical treatment of human maladies.
Look for a dozen new displays of venomous and poisonous insects, reptiles, fish and other creatures interspersed throughout the aquarium under this theme. Some of the unlikely stars are native to North Carolina.
Venom also incorporates the outdoor walk-through Hidden Inhabitants exhibit on the Marsh Boardwalk that is expanding to showcase all but one of North Carolina’s native venomous snakes. The lionfish display in the Ocean Gallery is in the Venom lineup, too, as well as the stingray touch pool.
Learn more about the difference between poisonous and venomous, the research underway on using toxins to human advantage, the value of these creatures to their ecosystems and how to live in harmony with them by understanding their habits and habitats. Venom – See Beyond the Danger is free with admission or membership.
Meet the Director
The NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores welcomes Hap Fatzinger as its new director. He joined the Pine Knoll Shores staff in March, and comes to Pine Knoll Shores after 18 years with the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
“I’m honored to be serving as director for the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and beginning this chapter of my career along the Crystal Coast,” he said.
“The aquarium is such an amazing asset for the citizens of North Carolina. I look forward to working alongside the staff and community on creating an engaging visitor experience, and increasing our impact on conservation education.”
Beginning as a volunteer at Fort Fisher in 1996, he soon became a temporary employee and then joined the staff full-time. For the past 14 years, Fatzinger held the title of aquarium curator, responsible for the management of 17 staff members and nearly 4,000 aquarium animals. During his tenure, he also managed and collaborated on the design and construction of major exhibits and projects.
Raised in Colorado but with strong ties to the Pacific Ocean, he traveled west to study in San Diego. He later moved to St. Thomas, and there earned a bachelor’s of science in marine biology from the University of the Virgin Islands.
The state aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores and Fort Fisher are under the NC Aquariums Division, which also operates the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.
The NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is 5 miles west of Atlantic Beach at 1 Roosevelt Blvd., Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512. Hours are 9am-5pm daily. Admission is $10.95 for ages 13-61; $9.95 for ages 62 and up and military; $8.95 for ages 3-12; no charge for ages 2 and under and NC Aquarium Society members. State taxes are additional to admission fees. For more information, see www.ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores or call 252-247-4003.