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Brief History of the Ocean Institute

Ocean InstituteThe Ocean Institute, founded as the Orange County Marine Institute, is a community-based 501 (c) (3) organization that educates 350,000 visitors annually through over 40 marine science and maritime history programs. Located on 2.4 acres in the Dana Point Harbor, at the edge of the Pacific Ocean and adjacent to a Marine Life Refuge, the site is ideal for hands-on learning about the sea.

The Institute grew steadily from inception to the point that the facilities were at 100% capacity. In 1999, the Board of Directors voted to expand, and initiated a capital fundraising campaign for the design and construction of new facilities. Construction of the six building, 33,800 sq. ft. campus began in early 2001. It took 18 months to build at a cost of $16.5 million, all generously donated by numerous friends from throughout the country. The capstone occasion came in October 2002 when the new Ocean Education Center opened for the people of Southern California and beyond.

Today, students, families and the general public become tallship sailors, research scientists, oceanographers, and explorers while immersed in Ocean Institute school-day and weekend programs.

Timeline of Events

Click here to download a PDF of our timeline. (PDF - 2MB)

time line
1977, Orange County Marine Institute holder holder holder holder
1980, Opening/Pilgrim arrival holder 1980, Graysea "the whale" 1981, summer camp programs 1984, Toshiba Tallship Festival
1985, Pilgrim Purchase holder holder holder holder
1994, R/V Sea Explorer holder holder holder holder
1995, Walter Cronkite Award 1995, Ocean Institute in the Movies holder 1997, first website 1999, Ocean Institute name change 1999, Swenson Family gift
2000, OI receives gifts that make the Ocean Educational Center Possible 2000, temporary facility during build holder holder holder
Daniel Gee 2001, Boris Arrives 2001, Adopt-A-Class Groundbreaking Pilgrim of Newport Land's End Park
2002, Huell Howser 2002, Pre-opening Tours 2002, Microfossil Sculpture 2002, Grand Opening Jazz in January
2003 NSF Grant 2003, Weekend Public Programs 2003, restoration Kids Watershed Conference holder
build-a-boat holder holder holder holder
2005, Stetson as president holder 2006, jumbo squid disection Laguna Beach Home Raffle Black Jellies
holder holder holder holder holder
holder Teacher brings class for 20 years holder holder holder
holder Jazz in January Seaside plans Two-Spot Octopus holder
holder holder holder holder holder