Charleston, Oregon and the Marine Life Center… A Delight

I am taking a brief break from the desert Southwest, today. Peggy and I just returned from a three day trip over to the Oregon Coast and explored the interesting town of Charleston near Coos Bay.

This toothy fellow greeted us at the Marine life Center in Charleston, Oregon. I think this was a smile, assuming moray eels smile. Maybe it was contemplating what I might taste like.

That we ended up in Charleston, Oregon was a complete happenstance. Peggy and I wanted to make a quick trip to Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon coast. The park puts on an annual Christmas display of over 300,000 lights that feature coastal themes focusing on Pacific Ocean wildlife. Normally we take Quivera, our RV, and camp at Sunset Bay State Park, which is just down the hill. This time we were motelling it and I found one named Captain John’s in Charleston. The town is three miles away from Shore Acres. It was just a convenience— until we went for a walk.

The Marina, that serves as both a center for sports fishing and a port for commercial fishing is quite attractive.
A seagull photobombed a picture I was taking of a ramp down to the fishing boats.
Calm waters made for excellent reflection photos.
The harbor was packed with boats.
Huge piles of oyster shells served as a reminder of how important the fishing industry is to Charleston.
And these cormorants, which were perching on the bridge across the bay, also make their living off of fishing! Peggy and I had watched this flock of excellent divers hard at work while we ate dinner the night before. (I liked the washed out grey backdrop. It creates a water-color effect.)
This mural was featured on a shed next to the Davey Jones Locker restaurant. Humorous, yes, but still a reminder that fishing is a dangerous business.
A powerful memorial to fishermen lost at sea in Charleston looks out toward the ocean.
The many fishermen from Charleston who have lost their lives at sea are listed at the Memorial. “To the sea they turned for life; to the sea they gave their lives.”
It was the beginning of crab season and the crab pots were lined up and ready.
Peggy shows how high they were stacked.
Crab fishermen have different colored floats to avoid confusion about who owns what.
The jewel of Charleston, however, is the Marine Life Center. It has the good fortune of being located next to and is operated by the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.
The giant head of a humpback whale resides outside of the Center. Peggy stands in front of a portion of the skull. I couldn’t help but think of Georgia O’Keeffe and her love of bones. She would be jealous.
A number of interesting sea creatures were living in salt water tanks inside, including this unique starfish. (Peggy took this photo with her iPhone.)
Another perspective.
A great volunteer was manning the desk at the Center. She loaned Peggy a magnifying glass that attached to her iPhone and Peggy dashed around taking weird photos such as the butt of a sea cucumber. So, here’s a fun question. Do you know what this is? And no, it isn’t the butt. We asked our grandkids the same question. I’ll provide the answer in my next post.
A sea anemone.
And a closeup.
I was fascinated by the eyes on this fish.
How’s this for weird? You are looking at a snail.
A beauty here. Why am I thinking ermine?
A pair of sea cucumbers share a moment.
Check out the camouflage of this rock fish.
And now for some serious bones. You can see why most sea creatures give orcas a wide berth.
Just look at those choppers.
A “belly of the whale” look.
And here’s another toothy fellow. This time a dolphin.
But when it comes to teeth, nobody can beat a shark!
One of my favorites. I love the feet on this seal!
And on this turtle.
This guy was crabby.
And this fish was scary. I had a nightmare that featured a guy pounding on my door that had a similar look. Most dogs would find the fellow exciting, however. If you have ever cleaned up your dog after it has rolled in dead fish, you know what I mean.
I’ll conclude with another photo of the smiling fellow I started the post with. Looks like a trip to an orthodontist might be in order.

NEXT POST: Back to Georgia O’Keeffe at Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu in New Mexico.

43 thoughts on “Charleston, Oregon and the Marine Life Center… A Delight

  1. Curt, I am at a loss what to say to so much beauty and so many fascinating fishes and shells. It is all fantastic and you and Peggy are having yourselves a good old time.
    Many things I recognise from the coast I come from. This port is bigger or there are many fisherman fishing crabs. I would be boring going in to more details so, thank you for the delight.


    • Always a lot more posts out there than time to write, Ray. Not a bad thing. It means we are out and about! Will be in Florida over Christmas. Whether we make it to the Crystal River depends upon what the kids have planned. We will be traveling across the country to Washington DC by train. More posts. 🙂 –Curt

  2. An old friend of mine developed and presented a talk on sharks that he presented from time to time at the Marine Life Center. I was never able to get over there for one of his talks. He recently moved to Albuquerque so I have missed my chance.I hope you will have a wonderful Christmas. Perhaps we can meet for dinner before then. We fly to Houston on Dec 23.

    • Hey Don. Peggy and I found the Center great for its size. We will definitely go back. Plus there are the parks nearby. Have you ever been to the Christmas lights display at Shore Acres. If not, you and Nan should head over for a visit before you head off to Houston. Plus you could stop by the Marine Life Center! Laughing about our schedules. Peggy and I are out of here on Thursday taking Amtrak across the country to spend the holidays in Florida and Virginia with our kids. –Curt

    • Been there, huh Peggy. 🙂 Any of us who have dogs and live anywhere you might have dead fish have likely had the experience. Worse than a skunk! And the outing was just fun. Peggy and I will go back there! –Curt

  3. Great series,Curt. The first photo of the eel I could not get out of my head an image of Trump having an angry fit. If you get close to the screen and squint a bit one might be able to see the resemblance. Its uncanny.

    • It seems like forever that I had a limited view of what starfish look like, Alison. And then I began to realize how weird they could be. And this one, so far, has been the weirdest. We loved it. –Curt

    • Thanks, AC. For a small town, Charleston had a lot amount to offer. The Marine Life Center was quite educational, plus it appealed to my sense of weird, which Peggy would tell you is quite well developed.:) –Curt

    • It was a surprise to us, Sylvia. We had been in the area several times to hang out at the state parks, but never really visited the town. Makes me want to spend even more time on the coast. Thanks! –Curt

  4. Looks like Charleston, Oregon was a great find! I’d love to see all those crab traps and oyster shells. It does really give you a feel for life there. I have yet to go to Oregon, but once I do, I think I’ll add Charleston to my itinerary.

  5. You were in my old neighborhood! Oddly enough I never checked out the Marine Life Center during my 15+ years living close to it. I’ve often found that, unless I’m taking visitors on tours, I often don’t get to the ‘must-see’ attractions near where I live. Can’t count the number of times I went to Charleston and Sunset Beach and Shore Acres and Cape Arago, but never stopped at the Marine place. Somehow it never popped up on my radar. Perhaps I’ll have to make a point of checking it out when visiting back north.

  6. I’m still pondering that starfish. Somehow I’ve missed knowing that they come in several unique varieties — and why shouldn’t they? The skeletons were fabulous, too. Of course, this Shore Acres is far more expansive than the Shore Acres just up the road from me, but maybe this Shoreacres needs to visit my Shore Acres, and then Oregon’s!

    • I still remember discovering that starfish came in so many different flavors, Linda. It would be fun to exchange Shore Acres. You always have a place to stay if you make it this way. –Curt

  7. Intrigued by all these photos of traps and sea creatures! And I didn’t even know there was a place called Charleston, Oregon — just the South Carolina version. So thanks for an interesting post and a reminder that fishing really is a dangerous way to make a living.

  8. I think you got the perfect weather in Charleston, at least those calm waters and the blue sky made it awesome to photograph the marina. All the sea creatures are interesting, but that starfish looks creepy 🙂

  9. I would not have thought a small town like Charleston would have a Marine Life Center. I recognize a lot of those critters from visiting their living rooms. Some names: The “eel” is a Wolf Eel, although technically it’s not an eel it’s a standard fish. (Don’t ask me the difference.) I’m always on the lookout for Wolf Eels and Octopus on dives. The sea star is called a Basket Star. I used to see them more often but not so much anymore. Your white beauty is a Plumose Anemone. They’re usually in colonies on walls and can be quite striking in large numbers. I’m pretty sure I know what your mystery picture is, and they’re no friend of the kelp. A population explosion is playing hell with the kelp forests.

    Welcome to the weird world of one of my other hobbies.

  10. Oooh! So much to comment on here. I agree that the fish is likely smiling, and it’s not his fault that his mouth is that shape!! I find marinas irresistible, and get caught up in shots of boats tied up, and crab pots, and reflections – all the things you show us here. Love the watercolour effect, too, and I always enjoy cormorants. What beautiful sea creatures you found. The extent of what lives in the sea never ceases to amaze me. I am sure that every time I see a collection of sea things, I see something new. I never would have identified that tree/vine thing as a starfish. It’s wonderful. I think the snail is giving a thumbs up. How sad that every single fishing community includes a memorial to those lost at sea. I want to get caught up in the romance of the life, but it’s not romantic at all. It’s hard, and dangerous, and sometimes you get days when you get to admire the sea around you, and sometimes you get enough of a catch to pay the bills.

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