Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration
|Date opened||October 6, 1973|
|Location||Mystic, Connecticut, USA|
Mystic Aquarium is an aquarium and oceanography institute in Mystic, Connecticut. It is part of the Sea Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization that also includes JASON Learning and the Ocean Exploration Center. The Aquarium is one of three U.S. facilities holding Steller sea lions and it has one of the largest outdoor Beluga whale exhibits in the United States. Special exhibits include a ray and shark touch pool, a penguin exhibit, and a jelly gallery.
The Ocean Exploration Center features maps, diagrams, and models from Dr. Robert Ballard's explorations of the Black Sea and of the wreck of the RMS Titanic. At the Nautilus Live Theater, presentations tell more of Dr. Ballard's more recent explorations and the ship E/V Nautilus. Audience members have a live link to crew members on the ship at sea and can ask them questions directly.
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).
Mystic Aquarium was first opened in 1973 as a privately owned corporation. Kelvin Smith, the industrialist and philanthropist who was the primary shareholder, 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 Ocean Exploration Center includes new content on the explorations of Dr. Robert Ballard. Including his Nautilus voyages which are seasonally streamed live in the Nautilus Live Theater. The 4D Theater operates year-round, featuring different 3-D movies and a moving theater seats based on the season. The movies include Sea Monsters and versions of the feature films Rio and Polar Express.
On April 12, 2012 the aquarium opened Titanic – 12,450 Feet Below 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.
Mystic Aquarium holds three beluga whales, three Steller sea lions, two Northern fur seals, seven California sea lions, 2 harbor seals, a large colony of African black-footed penguins, sea stars, unicorn fish, blue tang, octopus, leopard shark, bamboo sharks, sheepshead fish, horn sharks, sea turtles, clownfish, and other oceanic creatures. As part of its conservation work, it is among the first aquariums to attempt artificial insemination of a beluga whale, in order to increase breeding in captivity.
Within the aquarium, encounter programs are offered to visitors for an additional fee. Through these programs, visitors can to get close to the African penguins, touch and stand in the water with beluga whales, and feed and touch sting rays in a special pool.
Between September 2008 and May 2009, the aquarium hosted several marine mammals from the Shedd Aquarium while was undergoing renovation to its marine mammal habitat.
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