Building photo by Steve Shay, Octopus photo courtesy HCC MAST Aquarium
The Marine Science and Technology (MaST) Center, the marine laboratory for Highline Community College at Redondo Beach in Des Moines, experienced exterior damage during the Sunday night, Monday morning Puget Sound storm (Dec. 16 & 17). Also, power went out which could have been life-threateneing to the marine creatures in the aquarium. Thanks to alert volunteers, staff, & the help of gasoline generators, the octopus, pictured, and other marine animals were saved.

Marine Science and Technology Center in Redondo Beach, sea creatures, survive storm; Staff thanks volunteers

The Marine Science and Technology (MaST) Center, the marine laboratory for Highline Community College, located four miles south of campus at Redondo Beach, experienced exterior damage during the Sunday night, Monday morning Puget Sound storm (Dec. 16 & 17). Also, power went out which could have been life-threatening to the marine creatures in the aquarium depending on oxygen from pumps. A tidal surge of one and a half feet prompted by high winds combined with a high tide of 13 feet-plus at 8:17 a.m. Monday gave a one-two punch to the Center, to Salty's next door, and flooded the street there.

According to MaST's website, their 2,500 square-foot facility offers public space, classroom, laboratories, office and research areas with state-of-the-art equipment 3,000 gallons of flow-through saltwater tanks, holding more than 100 species of local marine life.

"The storm on Sunday night, Monday morning (...) really battered the facility," said Dr. Kaddee Lawrence, MaST Executive Director and tenured professor of Biology at Highline Community College. "The siding got ripped off on a number of areas. We lost a lot of good railings. We also lost power in the aquarium as well as in the main building.

"In the aquarium, we didn't have aerated seawater going through all of our tanks so we were really worried that we'd lose all our animals," she said. "We do have generators. Because the electrical panel at the aquarium was impaired we were having trouble getting the generator to power the (aeration) pump. Eventually we got the generator to 'direct-power' the pump without going through the electric panel. We had the aquarium running on the generator from about 1:00 p.m. Monday until about 3:00 p.m. Tuesday when we finally got shore power back out to the aquarium. We have electricians working on the aquarium's power right now.

"While we were on generator, which is gasoline-powered, we had to have people at the center 24/7 to keep putting gas back into the generator," she pointed out. "We had minimal power and no heat, and it was only 54 degrees inside. We had some hearty volunteers who really stepped foreword and saved us from having to release the animals back out into Puget Sound. We were incredibly lucky with the outpouring of support, from volunteers, people calling, leaving messages on Facebook, the Redondo community, dive community, and the media getting the word out about the damage."

Lawrence said the most vulnerable creatures affected without proper aeration would be their rock fish, cod, and their popular giant Pacific octopus.

"Right now she's fairly small, probably about two feet," Lawrence estimated. "We're hoping to keep her until June, then release her to coincide with Highline's graduation. By then she should be seven to nine feet."

You are invited to become a fan on their Facebook page, HCC MAST Aquarium@Redondo, and suggest names for the octopus.

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