The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute is one of the most interesting attractions island-wide. Since its construction the institute explores all things aquatic ranging from the creation of the islands of Bermuda to the legendary Bermuda Triangle. Their goal is to help encourage education and appreciation of the ocean surrounding Bermuda.
Originally, the concept was to create a museum-type institution to support underwater exploration. It took seven years to get the idea turned into an actual institute and officially opened in July 1997 by His Excellency, Thorold Masefield, Governor of Bermuda. Since 1997, various new exhibits have been added and in 2002 the world’s first continuous live feed was filmed from the wreck Pollockshields, during which they were able to unveil a 7,290 year old Bermuda Cedar tree stump that had been preserved 30 feet below off Gurnet Rock. In July 2017 when BUEI celebrated its 20th anniversary the exhibits were rebranded as the Ocean Discovery Centre and are now showcased on two different floors. The lower floor includes the Treasure Room, Shipwreck Gallery, The Deep & Bioluminescence and the Shark Cage and the upper floor includes the Blue Echo Dive, Living with the Ocean, Bermuda Triangle: Unlock the Secrets, World’s Largest Private Shell Collection and the America’s Cup: Built to Win exhibit. They are guided tours offered tailored to ages and topics, each tour lasts approximately 1 hour. All activities and tours are free of charge.
On the lower floor of the Ocean Discovery Centre, visitors have the chance to explore the Treasure Room and the Shipwreck Gallery. Here, you will travel back in time to learn about the island’s marine history and gaze upon the treasures that were found deep below. Visitors will also learn about Teddy Tucker, the previous honorary chairman of BUEI and a legendary scuba diver who personally located over 100 wrecks around Bermuda, many of which’ s treasures are showcased within the exhibit. Among the various treasures found in this exhibit is the legendary replica of “Tucker Cross”. It is emerald studded with 22 karat gold and was discovered in 1955 from the believed to be San Pedro (1595) wreck. Visitors can also explore the Deep & Bioluminescence exhibit and the Shark Cage on the lower floor. The Deep & Bioluminescence exhibit allows visitors to hear the sounds of dolphins and whales and showcases the underwater creatures that glow or can create their own lights for protection. The Shark Cage can accommodate up to six people and simulates the experience of an attack and hit by a shark.
Along the upper floor, visitors can explore the Blue Echo Dive, Living with the Ocean, Bermuda Triangle: Unlock the Secrets, World’s Largest Private Shell Collection and the America’s Cup: Built to Win exhibits. The Blue Echo Dive exhibit offers visitors the chance to experience a 7-minute simulated dive that takes you 12,000 feet below the surface. During the simulation you have the chance to visit an airplane graveyard and experience close encounters with deep sea creatures such as whales, squids and sharks. Click here for a preview of the exhibit. The Living with the Ocean exhibit discusses the impact humans have on the marine environment and offers visitors the opportunity to interact above and below the water with the state-of-the art technology and seven large screens that create an immersive Google Earth experience. This exhibit will explore the earth and below to our oceans, including some of the most remote and important underwater areas in the world and showcases some of the biggest oceanic problems such as pollution, global warming and over fishing.
Another exhibit on the upper floor is the Bermuda Triangle: Unlock the Secrets which opened in February 2018. The exhibit digs deep into one of the biggest mysteries to uncover the truth and weighs historical and scientific research to differentiate facts from fiction. It offers an immersive feel with its interactive multi-touch table, 3D hurricane hologram, simulations of sinking vessels, intriguing Triangle stories and examines the most common reasons for accidents. Was it really the weather, equipment failure or just human mistakes that led to treachery? With their new cutting-edge technology BUEI allows visitors to decide for themselves what they believe to be the true cause of the famous phenomenon. Click here for a preview of the exhibit. In June 2018 the Bermuda Triangle Tram tour was added which departs from the Hamilton Ferry Terminal and the Ocean Discovery Centre. Onboard, visitors can enjoy views of the island while tour guides highlight the historical sights not to be missed.
Further along the upper floor is the World’s Largest Private Shell Collection and the America’s Cup- Built to Win exhibits. The World’s Largest Private Shell Collection displays 1,200 different shells collected by malacologist R.H “Jack” Lightbourn (this is only 1/4th of his total collection). His collection is the largest in the world and rivals even the Smithsonian’s. The America’s Cup- Built to Win exhibit focuses on the renowned sailing race which is one of the oldest in sport history and even pre-dates the modern Olympics by 45 years. Since its origin, the America’s Cup race has encouraged innovative designs, technologies and along the way helped shape the sport of sail racing. This exhibit gives visitors the chance to compare traditional construction materials and techniques against the modern day creations and explains what is needed to compete at the highest level of sail racing. With the grinding machine and racing simulators, this exhibit offers an interactive experience for visitors to test their skills and see if they can train like a member of the crew. There is even the Oculus Rift virtual reality experience which cannot be missed!
In another section of the Ocean Discovery Centre is the Bermuda Revealed exhibit which explains the islands’ initial creation by a long-extinct volcano in the waters beneath. This interactive exhibit guides visitors through Bermuda’s geological history and reveals the truth behind our famous PINK sand! Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the evolution of underwater exploration techniques and equipment. There is even a diving bell and a replica of William Beebe’s famous bathysphere that visitors can climb into to experience what a dive would have been like in the 1900s. The bathysphere was a famous spherical deep-sea submersible that is less than 5 feet in diameter. It was used by William Beebe and Otis Barton to conduct a series of dives off the cost of Bermuda from 1930 to 1934. Their dives broke the previous recorded depth of a human dive of 525 feet and lasted for 15 years.
In addition to all the fascinating exhibits at BUEI there are also 14 different ‘Explorer Camps’ available with various themes like “Ice Worlds Under the Sea” and “Sea Myths & Sea Serpents.” The camps are designed to motivate, inform and excite young visitors (aged 5-13) using hands-on activities, experiments, interactive computer learning and scavenger hunts. There are also 25 education classes offered both in sciences and social studies/geography.
If you’re looking for an interesting thing to do, especially to keep the kids busy, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute is the best place to go. It truly has something for everyone whether you’re a history buff or looking to debunk the legend of the Bermuda Triangle you will definitely be enthralled by the discoveries within.
Ready to go to Bermuda? Head over to our main website or give us a call at 416-232-2243.
Sources: https://www.buei.bm/ocean-discovery-center/ & https://www.bermuda-attractions.com/bermuda_000033.htm