Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration

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Mystic Aquarium
Date opened October 6, 1973
Location Mystic, Connecticut, USA
Coordinates 41°22′29″N 71°57′10″W / 41.3748°N 71.9529°W / 41.3748; -71.9529Coordinates: 41°22′29″N 71°57′10″W / 41.3748°N 71.9529°W / 41.3748; -71.9529
No. of animals 10,000
Memberships AZA,[1] AMMPA[2]

Mystic Aquarium is an aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut. The Aquarium is one of three U.S. facilities holding Steller sea lions and it has the only beluga whales in New England.[3] 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 and Polar Express. as well as a National Geographic Theater running films from National Geographic.

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.[4]


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.

Between September 2008 and May 2009, the aquarium hosted several marine mammals from the Shedd Aquarium while it was undergoing renovation to its marine mammal habitat.

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. In the Nautilus Live Theater, presentations told more of Dr. 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. 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.

In 2014 the aquarium was presented with the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.[4] The award was accepted by Sea Research Foundation's president, Stephen M. Coan.[5]

Also in 2015 the Titanic exhibit was remodelled into a new 7,000 sq ft (650 m2) exhibit named Exploration: Wild after Ballard ended his association with the aquarium. The new exhibit, which was designed entirely by aquarium staff and cost $500,000, focuses on conservation and consists of interactive environments highlighting desert, rainforest, the Arctic, wetlands and the open ocean.[6]


Penguin feeding

Mystic Aquarium holds three beluga whales, three Steller sea lions, two Northern fur seals, seven California sea lions, harbor seals, a large colony of African black-footed penguins, unicorn fish, blue tang, octopus, Japanese spider crabs, sand tiger sharks, bamboo 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 human care.

Within the aquarium, encounter programs are offered to visitors, who for an additional fee can 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.

Staff feeding Pinnipeds (sea lions) at the Pacific Northwest portion of the aquarium


  1. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved 24 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "Our Members". AMMPA. Retrieved 24 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "Barnum School kids have a whale of a time". Connecticut Post, By Linda Conner Lambeck. March 15, 2014
  4. ^ a b Sawyer, Jesse. "Michelle Obama Praises Mystic Aquarium at White House". NBC Connecticut.
  5. ^ "Mystic Aquarium receives National Medal from White House". Hartford Business, May 9, 2014.
  6. ^ Elliot, Sean D. (March 18, 2015). "Mystic Aquarium readying new habitat exhibit, including home for four alligators". The Day. 

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