May 3, 2022

Unseen Oceans Opens May 28 at Discovery Place Science

Exhibition highlights the latest advances in ocean exploration, the researchers and technologies behind them and the mysteries that remain.

CHARLOTTE, NC (May 3, 2022) – Our world is truly an ocean planet. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans, yet surprisingly little of these vast realms has been explored—until now. Using 21st-century technologies like robotics, satellite monitoring, miniaturization and high-definition imaging, ocean exploration has embarked on a new age of discovery. This summer Discovery Place Science will present Unseen Oceans, an exhibition produced by the American Museum of Natural History, which moves from the oceans’ sunlit surfaces to their inky depths below, revealing a world previously hidden to humans. Opening May 28, visitors encountering Unseen Oceans will experience our blue planet like never before.

“Discovery Place Science is thrilled to present this exhibition, which is as beautiful as it is educational,” said Catherine Wilson Horne, President & CEO of Discovery Place. “As humans we depend on the oceans for all that we do—from the oxygen we breathe to the food we eat—yet there’s still so little we know about life underseas. We hope visitors walk away with a curiosity that inspires the next generation of marine life biologists.”

Unseen Oceans is not only about hidden ocean wonders as the name of the exhibition itself suggests, but there is also an emphasis on the technology that allows scientists to uncover those wonders,” said Heather Norton, Chief Science Officer. “We’ve only mapped about 10-15% of the ocean floor with any accuracy, and this new technology is helping advance our understanding immensely.”

Visitors to Unseen Oceans will explore a series of media-rich galleries—showcasing a range of marine environments and introducing the scientists who are using cutting-edge research tools and developing new methods of exploring oceans—as they make their way through the exhibition. Along their journey, visitors will uncover answers to the following questions:

  • How do blue whales spend their day? (High-tech, removable tags on their backs provide the answer.)
  • What’s going on in the deep waters surrounding Hawaii? (Hint: advanced sonar reveals a new island is set to emerge…in more than 10,000 years!)
  • How can we identify the best locations for marine protected areas? (Fleets of small autonomous robots may offer important clues.)

“Throughout the two decades that I’ve spent studying the world’s oceans, I’ve been continually astonished at the ingenuity of my fellow marine scientists as they’ve utilized and adapted the latest technologies to make discoveries that we could previously only dream of,” said John Sparks, curator in the Department of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History and curator of Unseen Oceans. “For example, only recently did my colleagues and I reveal the widespread incidence of biofluorescence—the phenomenon by which organisms absorb light, transform it and emit it as a different color—among marine fishes. Visitors to this exhibition will learn about that research and more as they meet the scientists who are quite literally illuminating the unseen frontiers of our ocean world.”

What visitors will see in Unseen Oceans:

  • A video projected onto the floor gives the appearance of a sand surf lapping at visitors’ feet to welcome them into the exhibition
  • Larger-than-life models of beautiful and unusual planktonic species—will visitors spot the zooplankton that allegedly inspired the design of the monster from the Alien movies?
  • Fascinating casts of fossils from Earth’s past—from ammonites to megalodon teeth
  • Vast blue whales, giant squid and manta rays circling a wall in full-size video animations on a 180-degree, high-resolution screen
  • A scientifically accurate recreation of an undersea landscape from the Galapagos seamount chain
  • Models from the hidden parts of our ocean planet, including the Hudson Canyon—a spectacular underwater feature just 100 miles from New York City
  • Exciting new technology, including “squishy fingers,” which help marine biologists take hold of objects and living things without damaging them
  • A model submersible where visitors can take a seat for an instant photo op (fun fact: it’s a partial replica of the Triton, which was used while filming the BBC series Blue Planet II)
  • A video game where visitors “drive” the submarine around the ocean floor
  • Kinetic sand where visitors can reshape the ocean floor by digging trenches and creating islands

Unseen Oceans also highlights those who are discovering these ocean wonders—and how and why they do it—in a special “Meet the Scientist” nook visitors encounter before exiting the exhibition. The work of this newest generation of explorers continues to expand our view of marine ecosystems by uncovering mysteries hiding in our ocean planet and helps us understand how climate change and human practices (like burning coal, oil and gas and overfishing) are threatening our oceans’ inhabitants.

Unseen Oceans is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (

Unseen Oceans is curated by John Sparks, curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Ichthyology in the Division of Vertebrate Zoology.

Media Notes:

A media preview will take place Thursday, May 26 from 10 a.m. – noon. During this time, media are allowed to tour the exhibition as the installation is finalized. Please contact Sarah Wheat, Director of Communications at or 917.699.3690 to schedule a tour during the media preview window. Heather Norton, Chief Science Officer for Discovery Place will be on hand to speak with media during the preview.

Images and photo captions can be found here.

About Discovery Place and Discovery Place Science

One of the leading hands-on science museums in the nation, Discovery Place brings science, nature, and design together to create transformative experiences that enable the community to understand, enjoy and apply science to their lives. Discovery Place is a 501c3 nonprofit and leader in STEM education to the Carolinas through four distinct museum experiences—Discovery Place Science, Discovery Place Nature, Discovery Place Kids Huntersville and Discovery Place Kids Rockingham. Discovery Place serves over 750,000 people a year—through Museum visitations, interactive educational programming, professional development training and community outreach initiatives—shaping a future where people embrace science to create opportunities, build hope, solve problems and bring positive change for our world. In 2017, Discovery Place was named as a finalist for the National Medal by the Institute for Museum and Library Science. Discovery Place is supported, in part, by the Infusion Fund and its generous donors.

Discovery Place Science is the leading hub for science learning in the Carolinas—dedicated to the exchange of ideas, scientific exploration and creative expression to stimulate innovative problem-solving and learning. The Museum brings relevant, contemporary science to life through groundbreaking exhibitions, interactive educational programming and hands-on activities. Located in Uptown Charlotte at 301 N. Tryon Street, convenient parking is available in the Museum’s parking deck—the Carol Grotnes Belk Complex—at the corner of Sixth and Church streets. For more information about Discovery Place Science, call 704-372-6261, visit, or connect with Discovery Place Science on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

About the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses more than 40 permanent exhibition halls, including the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, which opened in 2021 – those in the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. The Museum’s scientists draw on a world-class research collection of more than 34 million artifacts and specimens, some of which are billions of years old, and on one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, the Museum grants the Ph.D. degree in Comparative Biology and the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, the only such free-standing, degree-granting programs at any museum in the United States. The Museum’s website, digital videos, and apps for mobile devices bring its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more around the world. Visit for more information.