The new Mystic Aquarium opened its Main Building in early spring, 1998, following a major renovation that brought the northeast the most modern, most complete facility of its kind. Visitors will enjoy more than 3,500 specimens of marine life from around the world -- 200 different species in more than 34 exhibits.
Entering the new Ocean Planet Pavilion, visitors are greeted with a graphic representation of the Aquarium's new layout and the adventure that lies before them. Four spectacular exhibits express the theme that marine life is not distributed evenly throughout the planet, but concentrated in "islands of life."
Where Rivers Meet the Sea
The world's rivers carry some 400 million tons of organic material to the coastal ocean every year, forming nutrient-rich habitats that support a variety of shoreline marine life. This exhibit replicates these important environments, right down to the sounds of a salt marsh, the crashing breakwater, and even the fog. The habitats appear quite real, especially to the shore birds and other marine life that live here.
Children (and adults, too) will be able to get up close with marsh inhabitants such as sea horses, green crabs, mumichogs and the mudskipper, which lives caked in mud.
Coral Reef / Oasis of Life in a Blue Desert
Big and impressive as well as fascinating, this exhibit is likely to be a favorite attraction. The 28-foot diameter, 30,000 gallon tank is home to a variety of fish, swimming against a backdrop of brightly colored artificial coral. Coral polyps are small, soft-bodied animals. Living in colonies, they build a calcium carbonate material around themselves, forming the delicate habitat in which many marine animals thrive -- the coral reef.
Bonnethead sharks (of the hammerhead family), rays, butterfly fishes, goat fishes and others live here. Visitors may view them from a surrounding mezzanine or from below, through 16 expansive windows.
Upwelling Zones / Nutrients from the Deep
The deep ocean is dark and foreboding. But it teems with life. Creatures that die here and do not get eaten sink to the bottom, where they break down and provide nutrient-rich bacteria to feed the animals living in this environment. A "kids cave" allows children to crawl underneath this exhibit and get a fish-eye view through a 36-inch diameter bubble.
The Upwelling Zones illustrates a variety of these deep habitats as they are found throughout the world's oceans. Long-tentacled sea nettle jellyfish highlight this area, while the Offshore Banks exhibit depicts an upwelling zone found off the east coast of North America.
This area also features the California Coast exhibit, where visitors step into a half-round acrylic window, immersing themselves in an undersea world. Here they will meet large and colorful fishes such as the bright orange garibaldi, the sex-changing California sheepshead, leopard and horn sharks.
Conserving Our Oceans
These exhibits demonstrate the effects of pollution, habitat destruction and overfishing impact fisheries, fish populations and, ultimately, us. Species that need our attention -- Atlantic cod, Alaskan king crab, spiny lobsters, Indo-Pacific fishes and live coral -- are highlighted here.
Additional features include:
World of the Dolphin
The newly renovated, 1,200 seat theater features expansive skylights to provide natural light over the central pool. A glass backdrop enhanced by colored lights gives the impression of a curtain of moving water, setting the stage for the real stars of the show -- the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
Tidal Pool Area
Here visitors can see the variety of animals found in a New England tide pool. The shallow, 20-foot exhibit is set beneath a projection of the planet earth. The video image actually turns on its axis to demonstrate how much of the earth's surface is made up of ocean.
The Discovery Lab allows visitors to observe ongoing research efforts at the Aquarium. Scientists can be seen working to learn about, care for, and conserve marine life. A video microscope transmits images to an overhead monitor outside the Veterinary Care Lab so visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look at the activities. And a 200-gallon touch- and-learn exhibit gives visitors hands-on experience.
XD Motion Theater
Experience breathtaking exhibits based on Dr. Ballard's expeditions. The newest, Exploring Your National Marine Sanctuaries, takes visitors LIVE into some of our National Marine Sanctuaries where they will discover shipwrecks and see colorful corals without having to leave the Aquarium.
The Aquarium also offers temporary, seasonal exhibits, that add exciting new experiences for visitors every time they come. Call for details or visit the Aquarium's official website.
Since its opening in 1973 the Aquarium has been an invaluable resource for education, serving thousands upon thousands of students. With its new features the Aquarium will provide only better programs at all levels to give students a distinct edge in marine-related sciences and conservation.
The new Mystic Aquarium features 110,000 square feet of covered exhibit space on a landscaped 18-acre site which includes free parking for 750 cars. This very major attraction is brought to us by 120 full-time and 171 part-time employees and 260 volunteers. But we're not done yet.
This one-acre exhibit resembles a coastal Alaskan shoreline and is home to the Aquarium's beluga whales and harbor seals. The 750,000-gallon pool features both above- and below-water viewing stations.
Institute for Exploration Exhibit Center
Challenge of the Deep
The Institute for Exploration (IFE) is dedicated to establishing deep-water archaeology, a new field of research. The IFE is headed by an eminently qualified figure -- Dr. Robert Ballard, deep-ocean explorer and discoverer of the Titanic. The Aquarium is home to the IFE Exhibit Center, and in Challenge of the Deep visitors can take a simulated 3,000-foot dive below the ocean surface. Exciting? Absolutely!