Evan Peterson

Aquarium creates a fishy fantasy with “Seapunk”

The new exhibit uses elements of steampunk to showcase sea life. Across the bridge, the arts center welcomes Evan Peterson back to Newport

If there was any doubt the new exhibit at the Oregon Coast Aquarium was a success, one only had to listen last weekend as visitors discovered Seapunk: Powered by Imagination.

“This is awesome,” said one.

“This is so cool,” said another.

 And from a third: “I’ve got to come back tomorrow. I forgot to charge my phone.”

 And those were the adults.

A moray eel makes itself comfortable in the “Helmet Memorial” in the “Seapunk” exhibit.

“Seapunk” is a punning nod to steampunk, a genre of science fiction, art, technology, and fashion inspired by 19th-century steam-powered machinery. The exhibit’s story concerns Phineas K. Brinker, “a retro-futuristic and intrepid inventor” who is stranded in his submarine at the bottom of the sea and must find a way to survive. To do so, according to the aquarium website, Brinker “rebuilds the crippled submarine into a modern marvel of engineering by constructing imaginative variations on contraptions one may be familiar with today.”

The underwater fantasy plays out in a series of galleries with exhibits that are at times poignant, at others, humorous, each built around art, antiques, and sea life.