Gateway: Living

Harbor Wildwatch’s Pier into the Night program returns for its 8th year

Stena Troyer, a science specialist with Harbor WildWatch, talks to Pier into the Night attendees while a volunteer diver looks on.
Stena Troyer, a science specialist with Harbor WildWatch, talks to Pier into the Night attendees while a volunteer diver looks on. Courtesy

For those looking for something fun to do during the cold weather months, exploring underwater sea animals at night may not sound too appealing.

But then there’s Harbor WildWatch’s Pier into the Night program. Now in its eighth year, it’s a kid-friendly show that spotlights sea animals found in Puget Sound, particularly those that become active at night. And, anyone can participate without setting a single toe in the water.

Families are invited to bring a chair to Jerisich Public Dock in Skansie Brothers Park in downtown Gig Harbor. Then get ready to settle in and enjoy a show where half the fun is not knowing what’s going to show up.

The anticipation builds when volunteer divers equipped with video cameras dive into the waters of Gig Harbor Bay. As they find and interact with sea animals, the images are projected onto a large outdoor screen where participants happily stay land-locked and warm while taking in the scene. A Harbor WildWatch biologist narrates the action.

It’s a great way to see and learn about all manner of fish and other creatures that you may never otherwise encounter, said Rachel Easton, Harbor WildWatch’s education coordinator.

Each Pier into the Night dive reveals something different. Past sightings include an octopus lair, squid, moon snails, sea cucumbers, crab, shrimp and even a Sturgeon Poacher fish with prominent whiskers, spines large fins and eyes that resemble something out of a storybook. Squid and octopus are more likely spotted at night and look brilliant under the beam of the diver’s flashlight.

“We’ve found things like trash, keys and even an old bike,” Easton said.

It’s a pubic dock, after all.

“But we try not remove something if an animal has made it part of its habitat,” she said.

After about a 40-minute dive, the show ends with a Q-and-A session from the audience.

The program is for all ages, from preschool and up, and provides a great learning opportunity about life in the underwater Puget Sound environment. But for those involved, it’s also an opportunity to make an impact.

“It’s about inspiring stewardship,” Easton said. “I think of it as introducing the community to their neighbors.”

Based in downtown Gig Harbor’s Skansie House, Harbor WildWatch operates as a nonprofit environmental education organization that relies on volunteers, grants, and donations from the community to host more than 500 interactive programs and a variety of fundraising events each year.

A visit to Harbor WildWatch headquarters (check open times) to enjoy a variety of hands-on activities makes for perfect rainy-day fun. Visitors can view the intricacies of animal skulls or take a turn at the microscope bar. Visitors can also roll up their sleeves for the “touch tank” that features a variety of sea stars, crabs, and mussels or watch as a live camera captures activity in the bay from a nearby dock.

Pier into the Night runs the first Saturday of the month during the winter months, October through March. The next one is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 4).

To learn more about Harbor WildWatch, view the program schedule, donate or volunteer, visit harborwildwatch.org.

Pier into the Night

▪ 6 p.m. Nov. 4

▪ 5 p.m. Dec. 2

▪ 5 p.m. Jan. 6

▪ 6 p.m. Feb. 4

▪ 7 p.m. March 3

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