The Newcastle nonprofit OceansWide Inc., almost 10 years after its founding, has a new base in Newcastle and an ambitious plan for the years ahead.
The OceansWide Marine Resource Center is now open at 68 Main St., the building most recently home to The ComeFIT Zone LLC.
The OceansWide tag line is “Adventures in Education and Research through Ocean Exploration” and the nonprofit’s activities range from school programs and summer camps to shipwreck-hunting and training programs in the Gulf of Maine.
Newcastle resident Campbell “Buzz” Scott is the founder and president of OceansWide.
A former fisherman and U.S. Navy Seabee, Scott now pilots or “flies” remotely operated vehicles, also known as ROVs, submarines or submersibles.
For 15 years, he was a pilot with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, flying submersibles up and down the west coast of North America.
He and the teams he was a part of discovered more than 350 new species, including a crab species named for Scott, a type of galatheid crab or squat lobster with the scientific name M. scotti.
Eventually, Scott, a native of Matinicus, decided to come home and work in the Gulf of Maine.
“It’s very important to understand the Gulf of Maine as much as we can,” Scott said. The cod, herring and mackerel fisheries of the Gulf of Maine “were very important to sustaining life” in Europe and New England for a long time, he said.
“A lot of that’s gone now and it would be nice to figure out how to bring it back,” Scott said.
He founded OceansWide as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2003, although most of its current programs date to 2008.
For years, Scott operated OceansWide out of his home and out of the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, but he had his eye on the Main Street property for several years, he said.
OceansWide runs school programs and summer camps around the country, from the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone to Chicago, Kansas City, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
The organization also runs a camp out of the Darling Marine Center in Walpole. Scott and his staff take students down the Damariscotta River and into the Gulf of Maine, where students learn how to pilot the boat and the ROVs.
“We use our robotics to get kids out on the ocean to learn about science and the environment and also history and adventure,” Scott said.
OceansWide also works with adults and runs an internship program for marine technicians.
The OceansWide staff trains the interns in Maine. The interns hire on as entry-level marine technicians with the National Science Foundation in Antarctica, where Scott continues to train and mentor them.
Here in Maine, interns are studying the effects of trace metals in the Gulf of Maine, including a shipwreck with 17,000 pounds of Mercury on board. The nonprofit hopes to help federal and state agencies monitor the wreck and others like it, Scott said.
OceansWide has three submersibles, donations from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the University of Maine and the U.S. Antarctic Program.
The submersibles, like Scott and many members of his staff, come with impressive résumés.
The Phantom S2, for example, has assisted in the recovery of solid rocket boosters from the space shuttles and flown under icebergs in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. The vehicle uses an attachment Scott likens to an “underwater vacuum cleaner” to collect samples from icebergs or whatever surface it happens to encounter.
The Phantom S2 can fly to depths up to 1000 feet, which means it can reach the bottom in 90 percent of the Gulf of Maine, Scott said.
OceansWide currently leases boats from the Darling Marine Center and local fishermen, but plans to launch a research vessel of its own by April 2014.
An old friend of Scott’s, Harlan Billings of Billings Diesel and Marine Service Inc. in Stonington, donated the 1947 sardine carrier Pauline to OceansWide.
The ship has already had a major overhaul, but OceansWide still needs to rebuild the berthing area and control room and outfit the vessel before taking it to sea.
The vessel will serve an important role in OceansWide’s shipwreck-hunting activities. The nonprofit is currently looking for three shipwrecks in Penobscot Bay, including the Harkness, a tugboat that sank off Matinicus Island in January 1992, and the Royal Tar, a circus steamship that sank off Vinalhaven after a fire in October 1836.
The adventure and mystery of shipwreck-hunting has its own appeal, but the communities of marine life that build up around shipwrecks also provide opportunities for biology and history education, Scott said.
Scott hopes to make a permanent home for OceansWide in Newcastle.
“Newcastle is the place to be for something like this,” he said.
The town makes an ideal location as a midway point between the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay and the Darling Marine Center in Walpole. “We can all really benefit from each other,” Scott said.
OceansWide moved into its new headquarters in early May and is already reaping benefits in terms of publicity and visibility.
“In the last four years, we have not had as much attention as we’ve had in the last week,” Scott said.
Newcastle resident Rob Nelson is OceansWide’s landlord. “He’s an advocate for the community and the environment and education,” Scott said. “He sees that we’re kind of traveling down the same path, so he’s been very willing to work with us.”
OceansWide is “discussing the possibility of building a new building on the site,” Scott said.
Scott envisions the building as a classroom and a shop where staff and students can build submersibles and instruments.
He would also like to see a pool where the staff can give scuba diving and cold-water survival lessons and teach students how to fly submersibles. The pool would have glass walls so passersby could observe the divers and vehicles at work.
As with any nonprofit, finances are an ongoing challenge for OceansWide.
“Everything we have to date is because of donations and volunteers,” Scott said.
The nonprofit is developing a five-year, multimillion-dollar fundraising plan to pay for the building, the Pauline, equipment, curriculum development and day-to-day operations.
“We’re all working as volunteers,” Scott said of himself and the approximately 34 others who staff OceansWide. “We’d like to change that soon.”
OceansWide has a grant writer on board, issues an annual appeal and plans to conduct a capital campaign and a Kickstarter campaign, as well as a silent auction this summer to fund improvements to the Pauline.
OceansWide has had contracts with the U.S. Navy and the Maine Department of Marine Resources and expects future contracts with government agencies and offshore wind developers to create jobs for interns and help the nonprofit become self-sustaining, Scott said.
The OceansWide Marine Resource Center at 68 Main St. in Newcastle is open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sign-ups are underway for 2014 summer camps.
The center currently has art prints, donations from Matinicus artists Tom Bernardi and David Sears, available for sale to benefit the building and the internship program.
For more information, contact Buzz Scott at 620-6037, email firstname.lastname@example.org, like OceansWide on Facebook or visit http://www.oceanswide.org.