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home | Locations | 4 of 14 Types of Connecticut Recreat . . .

4 of 14 Types of Connecticut Recreational Facilities--Aquariums
Ivan Gillis
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Connecticut Aquariums

Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk - Norwalk

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk (formerly Maritime Center) is an aquarium located in the South Norwalk (or "SoNo") section of NorwalkConnecticut.

The aquarium has harbor seals, river otters, sharks, jellyfishloggerhead turtles, and hundreds of other animals living in re-creations of their natural Long Island Sound habitats. Two touch tanks feature smooth stingrays, nurse sharks, crabs, sea stars, and other coastal creatures.

The aquarium also has an IMAX Theater with a screen six stories tall and the equivalent of eight stories wide. It was opened in October 2007 to show regular feature-length movies on weekend evenings. Part of the upgrade was the installation of a 10,000-watt, digital, proprietary, surround-sound system. The aquarium features educational programs, year-round study cruises on its 40-foot (12 m) trawler, Research Vessel Oceanic, special exhibits, and fun 3-D simulator/adventure rides.

he Maritime Aquarium is approximately 140,000 square feet (13,000 m2) and has more than 177,000 gallons of water in its live animal exhibits. On exhibit are more than 2,000 marine animals and reptiles, representing in excess of 300 species. Its 93 exhibit tanks range in size from 10 to 110,000 gallons. There are two exhibit pools: seals and ray touch. Off-exhibit are more than 30 additional tanks and a small pool.

The aquarium has a display of detailed ship models with 14 in cases, as well as charts and interpretive signs. In the ship model area and throughout the Cascade Cafe are signs describing the nautical origins of many popular sayings, for example, "bitter end," "scuttlebutt," "let the cat out of the bag," "under the weather," and "three squares a day."

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration - Mystic

The Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut is one of three U.S. facilities holding Steller sea lions, and it has the only beluga whales in New England. Special exhibits include a ray and shark touch pool, an African penguin exhibit, a jelly gallery, and an "Exploration: Wild" ecosystems exhibit.

Mystic Aquarium also features a 4D Theater showing interactive films, including Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, as well as a National Geographic theater.

The aquarium is a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) and is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). It is a subsidiary of the Sea Research Foundation.

Mystic Aquarium was first opened in 1973 as a privately owned corporation. Industrialist and philanthropist Kelvin Smith was the primary shareholder; he chose Mystic, Connecticut as the site because of the area's scenic shoreline and rich maritime history. In 1999, the aquarium and Ballard's Institute for Exploration combined to form a $52 million expansion. The expansion features the Arctic Coast, a 1-acre (4,000 m2) outdoor beluga whale display containing 750,000 US gallons (2,800 m3) of water.

The aquarium hosted several marine mammals from the Shedd Aquarium while it was undergoing renovation to its marine mammal habitat between September 2008 and May 2009. The National Geographic Society's Crittercam exhibit was set up at the aquarium in February 2011 but has since been removed.

In 2012, Mystic Aquarium opened the Ocean Exploration Center featuring maps, diagrams, and models from Dr. Robert Ballard's explorations of the Black Sea and of the wreck of the RMS Titanic. Presentations in the Nautilus Live Theater told more of Ballard's recent explorations and the ship E/V Nautilus. Audience members had a live link to crew members on the ship at sea and could ask them questions directly. The aquarium opened Titanic – 12,450 Feet Below on April 12, 2012 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The exhibit was created by Ballard, who found the Titanic in 1985, and Tim Delaney, a former Walt Disney Imagineer. It was funded by a $1 million donation from United Technologies Corporation.

The aquarium was presented with the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2014. The award was accepted by Sea Research Foundation's president Stephen M. Coan. The Titanic exhibit was also remodeled into a new 7,000 sq ft (650 m2) exhibit named Exploration: Wild in 2015, after Ballard ended his association with the aquarium. The new exhibit was designed entirely by aquarium staff and cost $500,000; it focuses on conservation and consists of interactive environments highlighting desert, rainforest, the Arctic, wetlands, and the open ocean.


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