Ahoy, mateys! Mobile museum showcases New York’s maritime wonders

for The Brooklyn Paper
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There’s more in the East River than garbage and body bags.

This summer, learn all about the surprising history of New York’s waterways from Ludger Balan, a local diver who is dedicated to educating us about the hidden wonders of local marine life.

On four occasions this summer, Balan’s Mobile Nature and Maritime Museum on Wheels ¬— an RV packed to the gills with nautical history and artifacts — will be parked at the IKEA Erie Basin Park in Red Hook as part of a festival series that will strive to make environmentalism kid-friendly.

The bus-turned-museum, guided by the swashbuckling Balan — aka the pirate “Captain Hawkeye” — includes centuries-old fossils of modern-day sea creatures, as well as seafaring knick-knacks that shed light on the lives of American sailors. And don’t forget to ask Balan about the story of legendary diver Carl Brashear, who became the first African-American U.S. Navy Master Diver in 1970 — and that was after he had his leg amputated in a diving accident!

The portable museum will be accompanied by day-long festivals where nature-themed activities will abound. Solar Fest, the first event, will include moveable gardens and workshops where kids can get dirty with plants and worms. For the second event, the fun will move from land to sea for the Treasure Cove Bacchanal and Pirates Festival, where kids can watch pirate theatre and compete in a catch-and-release fishing contest.

Family Fun festival series at IKEA Erie Basin Park (1 Beard St. at Otsego Street in Red Hook), Saturdays, June 25, 11 am; July 30, 11 am; Aug. 20, 3 pm; and Sept. 24, 11 am. For info, visit

Updated 5:24 pm, July 9, 2018
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