In collaboration with Bank of America, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is planning a special day to generate support for The Maritime Aquarium and many other important non-profit organizations throughout the region.

It’s called Fairfield County’s Giving Day, an online, 24-hour day of giving on Thurs., March 10. The goal is to raise more than $1 million for nearly 400 nonprofit groups.

They’ve made it easy for you to make a contribution and direct it to The Maritime Aquarium. On Thursday, just click here or on the “Giving Day” logo at right.

What’s even better: Giving Day also is a competition in which more than $85,000 in prize money will be awarded to participating organization. There will be prize awards in such categories as:  the two organizations that raise the most money;  the two organizations with the most individual donors;  the organizations that raise the most money in certain time slots;  and more.

By designating The Maritime Aquarium to receive your Fairfield County’s Giving Day donation, you’ll be helping to feed our seals, maintain the perfect aquatic environment for our sea turtles, and buy needed materials for the environmental-education programming that’s important to so many school students in the tri-state area.

Spread the word among your friends, family and colleagues because every donation is important in the Giving Day contest, no matter the amount.

Here’s the link for more information: www.fcgives.org.

 

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Orange the harbor seal has made her pick for Super Bowl 50 and it is the Carolina Panthers.

Orange the harbor seal makes her pick – Carolina – for Super Bowl 50.

The 33-year-old seal knows how to hold her nose against the hand of her Aquarium trainers, and also against a “target pole,” the exhibit window and other objects.

On Thurs., Feb. 4, the Aquarium seal exhibit was lined with images of the Carolina Panthers’ and Denver Broncos’ helmets.  When instructed to go to the exhibit window, Orange swam to – and held her nose against – a Panthers’ helmet, indicating her pick.

If it’s any consolation for Denver fans, the Aquarium’s seals have proven to be pathetic pinniped pigskin prognosticators:  they’re 0 for 4 in previous attempts to pick the Super Bowl winner. However, it must be noted that Polly picked Seattle last year, and she would have been right if not for the Seahawks’ boneheaded decision to throw a pass at the goal line as time was expiring.

It’s all in fun, of course. The Aquarium’s animal-husbandry rules prohibit the seals from actually doing any wagering.

Last year, Samsung also had fun with our seals’ supposed soothsaying, featuring Orange in an online ad for its new Galaxy S6 phone: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nztoD9Nea-A

 

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Held on Sun., Jan. 31, The 2016 Chocolate Expo drew the largest single-day attendance in The Maritime Aquarium’s 28-year history.   We welcomed 7,937 guests to the fourth-annual Expo, which featured some 40 regional chocolatiers and other specialty-food retailers offering samples and sales of their products throughout the Aquarium galleries.

(The previous single-day Aquarium attendance record was 6,857 achieved on Chocolate Expo 2014.)

First County Bank was presenting sponsor of Chocolate Expo at The Maritime Aquarium.

Here are some photos from the big delicious day:

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The Chocolate Expo returns for its fourth year at the Maritime Aquarium this Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. They’re taking over the Aquarium for the day, so here’s everything you need to know.

The Maritime Aquarium is located at 10 North Water St., Norwalk, CT, 06854. You may enter the expo from the main entrance or the IMAX entrance.

Price

Discounted!
Non-members $15/adults $10/children ages 3-12
Members $13/adults $8/children ages 3-12
There is no senior or youth pricing this day.

Skip the line! Purchase advance e-tickets here.

All tickets are non-refundable.

We’re sorry, but Aquarium members do not receive free admission for this special event. Member guest discounts do not apply.

Directions

Driving

For directions from I-95, The Merritt Parkway, and surrounding CT and NY areas, please refer to our website.

Or, get directions to The Maritime Aquarium from your location.

Public transportation

If you plan on arriving by Norwalk Transit, Metro-North Railroad, or by boat, please refer to the details on our website.

* Some GPS devices and computer map programs point to the IMAX® Theater entrance to our facility. The parking garage and Main Entrance are one block north near the intersection of Ann and North Water streets.

Parking

The municipal Maritime Garage is located directly across from the Aquarium on North Water Street located between Ann and Marshall streets. The garage is maintained by the Norwalk Parking authority. Click here for rates. For more information on the Maritime Garage and the three other lots in South Norwalk visit the Norwalk Parking Authority’s website. A new smart phone app “Parker” shows real-time parking space availability.

Additional parking is available at Veteran’s Park. It is about a five- to ten-minute walk from the Aquarium. Parking attendants at the Maritime Garage will direct guests to the overflow lot once the main lot is full.

Celebrity Chefs and Cooking Demo Schedule

In our IMAX® Theater. (Limited first-come, first-served, seating.)

Tony Albanese, pastry designer and former assistant to Buddy Valastro of “Cake Boss.”
Barret Beyer of Fox TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen”
Scottish Francis of “MasterChef”
Larry Rosenberg, recipe-book author and owner of Bacon Bites.

11:00 am to 11:30 am – Tony Albanese
12:00 pm to 12:30 pm – Barret Beyer
1:00 pm to 1:30 pm – Scottish Francis
2:00 pm to 2:30 pm – Tony Albanese
3:00 to 3:30 pm – Scottish Francis
4:00 to 4:30 pm – Larry Rosenberg
5:00 to 5:30 pm – Barret Beyer

Additional programming in our third-floor classroom

12:30 pm to 1:00 pm – Debbie Prinz: Choco-Talk
1:30 pm to 2:00 pm – Felicia Ramos: Kids Craft Activity
2:30 pm to 3:00 pm – Debbie Prinz: Choco-Talk
3:30 pm to 4:00 pm – Felicia Ramos: Kids Craft Activity
4:30 pm to 5:00 pm – Debbie Prinz – Choco-Talk

On the day of The Chocolate Expo refer to our Today’s Events page on your smart phone for the full schedule.

Vendors

44 vendors will set up throughout the Aquarium’s galleries. View the full list here.

FAQ

What are your hours?

We’re extending our hours for Chocolate Expo. We’ll be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

What is the best time to attend?

People love chocolate so we expect crowds all day, but we anticipate our heaviest attendance will be between noon and 4 p.m. If you prefer a less bustling experience, stop by between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., or between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Can I buy tickets online?

Yes, skip the line! Purchase advance tickets here, print them out and bring your web ticket with you. Go directly to the usher who will scan your ticket when you arrive.

Do you allow strollers?

Yes. However because we expect higher than average attendance, you may be more comfortable with a backpack style child carrier or smaller stroller. We expect our busiest time to be between noon and 4 p.m., so please plan accordingly.

Is the IMAX® theater showing movies during Chocolate Expo?

No. Celebrity chefs will perform their demos in the theater. All movies on Jan. 31 have been cancelled.

Will “Jiggle a Jelly” touch adventure be open during Chocolate Expo?

No. “Jiggle a Jelly” will be open Sat., Jan. 30, weekends, holidays and school vacation weeks after the expo. All other exhibits will be open.

What’s with the free samples?

Think more like a tasting instead of Halloween. Most vendors will offer small taste samples of their products. In many cases you get to talk to the folks who make the products you are trying. Then you can purchase take-home quantities of what you like.

Is it only chocolate?

Heavens no! Interspersed with fine chocolatiers and some fun products like chocolate infused Brussels sprouts and chocolate covered bacon are tasty treats like cotton candy made from maple sugar, Caribbean rum cakes, a guy with 40 varieties of seed and nut butters, edible cookie dough, exotic olives and pickles. There are non-food items too, some chocolate, some not, like chocolate soap. Check the vendor list.

Do you offer products for special diets?

Yes, vendors include those with vegan, organic, all-natural, no-sugar-added, gluten-free and kosher foods.

What about allergies?

Many vendors offer products that contain common food allergens such as wheat, soy, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, etc., or are manufactured in facilities with these products. If you have food allergies, we suggest that you consult with your healthcare provider before attending Chocolate Expo.

Check back in with us for more updates and peeks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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On Jan. 21, we announced the winners of our 14th annual “Festival of Lighthouses Contest,” which ran from Nov. 21-Jan. 18 and featured 22 large creative amazing homemade lighthouses.

2015-16 lighthouse winnerThis year’s 1st-place winner (through guest voting) is Robert Keene of Darien and his “Surviving the Storm” lighthouse. For receiving the most visitor votes – out of more than 11,500 votes cast – Robert took home the $1,500 first-place prize.

Here are the other prize winners:

• second place ($750) – “Tiki Island Lighthouse” by Brett Almstead of Ridgefield.
• third place ($375) – “Fairy Lighthouse” by Bob Hemond of Trumbull.
• fourth place ($300) – “Fieldstone Tower” by Pedro Davila of White Plains, N.Y.
• fifth place ($225) – “North Pole Lighthouse” by Jo Stecker of Norwalk.
• sixth place ($150) – “Droste Point: The Lighthouse Within” by Nancy Todd of West Haven.

An additional $500 prize was awarded to Hemond, who won the “Facebook Favorite” vote conducted online Dec. 28-Jan. 18.

A sincere thank you to all 22 entrants.  Look for information later this summer about how to enter our 2016-17 lighthouse contest.

 

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The Maritime Aquarium recently received two videos from Connecticut residents who claim to have encountered the legendary (and supposed) forest shark.  We’re studying the videos’ authenticity.

 

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Because so many boaters seem to be encountering the humpback whales currently in the western end of Long Island Sound … and because boaters of Long Island Sound aren’t accustomed to sharing the water with 30-foot creatures that come to the surface to breathe and to occasionally leap out of the water … the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has issued a reminder about keeping a safe distance.

Guidelines from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) advise to stay at least 300 feet away from large whales.  That’s for the whales’ safety and yours.

Here’s a nice graphic from NOAA that explains:

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Challenge:  name the animal that, pound for pound, is the most formidable creature in Long Island Sound.

Did you say sharks?  Or bluefish, with their sharp teeth?  Maybe blue crabs, that can pinch like a vice?

Actually, the answer most likely is a shrimp.

Maritime-Aquarium-mantis-shrimp

A mantis shrimp on exhibit in The Maritime Aquarium.

The mantis shrimp – a shrimp that, in growing up to 10 inches long, isn’t so shrimpy – has a razor-sharp pair of first claws that can slice open a fish (or your finger or toe) in a blink.

Divers respectfully call them “thumb splitters.”

Mantis shrimp got their name because their front claws (the dangerous ones) are held folded under their bodies in a tight Z, like the praying mantis insect. Like some sort of little ninja lobster, a mantis shrimp can use its weapon on you before you can even react. Its slashes are the fastest-known movement in the animal kingdom.

Other species of mantis shrimp have a club-like appendage used to pummel hard-shelled prey (like crabs and snails) into meat-exposed bits. Larger mantis shrimps from the Pacific can punch with nearly the force of a .22-caliber bullet and in aquariums have been known to pop a hole in their tanks’ glass.

Maritime-Aquarium-mantis-shrimp-eyes

The fascinating – and excellent – stalked eyes of a mantis shrimp.

OK, so a shrimp with a black belt is scary enough. But how would you like to have one stalking you? That’s what they do with their prey, thanks to their excellent advanced vision and stalked eyes that can rotate 360 degrees.

At least they don’t live around here, right?

Wrong.

There are about 450 species of mantis shrimp, and one – Squilla empusa – is found in shallow waters from Cape Cod to Brazil, including Long Island Sound.  The crew of The Maritime Aquarium’s research vessel and local fishermen are keenly aware of what mantis shrimp can inflict. A website frequented by local striped-bass fishermen has such comments about mantis shrimp as “some mean (expletive)s … wouldn’t even put my hand near them.”

If you swim in the Sound, your toes should be safe. Mantis shrimp are nocturnal and stay in deeper water where they can excavate a burrow. The shrimp sits in the burrow, waiting for prey to swim by.

They’re preyed upon by octopus, moray eels and fish. (Those aforementioned striped-bass fishermen say the stripers “eat them like popcorn.”)

Their tail meat is said to be delicious. But good luck catching one!

The safest way to see mantis shrimp is to come to The Maritime Aquarium. Although not always displayed here, mantis shrimp currently can be seen in exhibits in our Salt Marsh gallery and in the side aquariums at our Intertidal Touch Tank (where you cannot touch them and, more importantly, these fascinating feisty little creatures cannot touch you).

–  Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist

 

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whale breach Dan Lent

A humpback whale breaches off Stamford, CT, on Sept. 12, 2015. Photo by Dan Lent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps you have seen news stories over the last two weeks of boaters being shocked (and thrilled) by encountering a humpback whale in Long Island Sound.

These boaters haven’t merely glimpsed a whale blowing out a mist when it came to the surface to breathe.  No, they’ve seen – and photographed and shot video of – a humpback whale breaching, or leaping, out of the water. (These images are helpful in clearly identifying the whale as a humpback.)

The Sound is too shallow to be much of a regular habitat for an animal that can reach 60 feet long. And there are only two comparatively narrow openings into the Sound for an ocean-going whale to decide to enter. But some species of whales do visit occasionally.

However, no one here at the Aquarium can remember a humpback whale coming in. Or a whale staying in the Sound this long – now 2+ weeks. Or, after reported sightings off Port Washington and Rye, N.Y., a whale venturing so far into the Sound’s western basin.

This past Saturday (9/12) around 5 p.m., Dan Lent of Easton had an experience that gives a new twist to the story.

While boating off Stamford, he saw two whales.

whale dorsal Dan Lent

A humpback whale surfaces off Stamford, CT, on Sept. 12, 2015.

Lent told the Aquarium: “One seemed to be swimming around more underwater and covering more ground and breaching every 5 minutes (I saw about 5 breaches) and the other seemed to be swimming calmly in a straight line from R32 Stamford to n34 in Greenwich. … I know for certain that there was more than one whale because the breaching one started to scare me and breached behind the boat while the other whale was in front.”

According to guidelines of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), boaters must stay 300 feet away from any large whales. As Lent experienced, any temptation to creep closer is lost when you see an animal weighing many tons crash back into the water with a thunderous splash.

whale splash Dan Lent

A breaching humpback whale makes a thunderous splash in Long Island Sound off Stamford, CT, on Sept. 12, 2015. Photo by Dan Lent.

In an email, Lent wrote that he was “following their blow holes’ spray and the disturbed water and then all of a sudden it breached 100’ behind me. I got really scared that it could hit or crush my 27’ boat. It was about the size of the boat.”

Lent’s estimate of size – and his excellent photographs – suggest that the whale – or whales – may be young whales; perhaps two males off on an adventure to explore the world. If they’re only half as big as their eventual size, that also might explain how they’re able to get a “running start” to breach in only 60 to 70 feet of water.

So why would the whales be here? Speculation is that the whales – and pods of dolphin that also have been seen – are in the Sound because of a striking quantity of bait fish widely seen throughout the Sound all summer. The marine mammals are here to feed on these enormous schools of menhaden (bunker), porgies and other small fish.

Is the whales’ presence an indication that the Sound’s health is good? Unfortunately, you can’t make that connection.  Excess influxes of pollutants, especially bacteria from storm-water runoff and nitrogen from lawn fertilizer and sewage-treatment plants, still create troubling instances of beach closings and oxygen-depleted “dead zones.” These wouldn’t impact a transient air-breathing whale but they do effect our native marine life.

Where are the whales now?  Impossible to say. And we would rather that everyone just leave them alone. They’re federally protected. If you are out on the Sound and fortunate to see them, we ask that you follow from a distance of at least 300 feet – for your safety and the whales’. Best thing to do is to cut your engine, get out your camera, enjoy the rare opportunity and send an email with details of your encounter to Joe Schnierlein here at the Aquarium: jschnierlein@maritimeaquarium.org.

Actually, we can guarantee one way to see humpback whales: check out the IMAX® movie “Humpback Whales” playing on The Maritime Aquarium’s six-story screen now through Nov. 24 at 1 & 3 p.m. daily.

–  Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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Hooper himself joined us on June 14 as we celebrated the 40th anniversary of “Jaws” with actor Richard Dreyfuss telling stories about the making of the blockbuster film … followed by a showing of the movie on our six-story screen.

Maritime-Aquarium-Richard-Dreyfuss

Actor Richard Dreyfuss awaits the next question about the making of "Jaws" during his appearance at The Maritime Aquarium on June 14.

An adoring crowd heard stories – many of them humorous – of mechanical sharks that didn’t work, director Steven Spielberg’s brilliance, Dreyfuss’ initial indifference to the film and more.

Responding to questions from sponsors and hosts Tina Pray and Joe Lockridge, Dreyfuss said he had not read Peter Benchley’s book when he was contacted by Spielberg about playing the role of the marine biologist Matt Hooper.

“I’m lazy, and that’s going to be a bitch [to film],” he recalls thinking.

He said he turned Spielberg down twice. But then, in 1974, after seeing a screening of his starring role in “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,” he changed his mind.

“I watched my performance and I said, ‘If this sells in the United States, I will never work again,’” he said. “I called up Steven and begged him for the part.”

Dreyfuss also admitted that, after filming of “Jaws” was completed, he didn’t have high hopes.

“Of course I’m also the one who, on the set of ‘American Graffiti,’ said, ‘What’s the big deal? It’s just a little movie,’” he said.

Dreyfuss said “Jaws” really was made without a script, with many of the iconic scenes either being ad libbed (example – one of Dreyfuss’ favorite lines: Hooper chuckling to himself “They’re all going to die”) or included after collaborative discussion (example – Dreyfuss crushing a Styrofoam cup).

“It really was an improvised epic,” he said.

Perhaps that’s why, as Dreyfuss admitted, parts of the story don’t make sense.

“Like, why we took the Orca and not my triple-deck decked-out boat,” he said.

Spielberg, he said, wisely threw out several of the subplots that exist in the book, and also decided that, in the movie, Hooper would not die.

“You couldn’t kill my character because I was too likeable,” he said.

In real life, Dreyfuss said he is a capable (if not officially certified) scuba diver.  “Jaws” did not scare him out of the water.

But, he added: “What I will not do is just walk off the beach into the water. Neither Steven or I will walk off the beach into the water.”

See more images here.

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The event sold out months ago … with most tickets being snapped up when they went on sale first to Maritime Aquarium members. Such exclusive ticket opportunities are just one of many advantages of a Maritime Aquarium membership.

Maritime-Aquarium-Dreyfuss-meet-and-greet

Dreyfuss chats with Michael and Nathalia Chandler, who came to the Aquarium event all the way from South Carolina.

Here’s the best story about that:  Michael and Nathalia Chandler live in South Carolina. They’re big “Jaws” fans. They watch it a couple times a week, he says.  Earlier this year, Nathalia discovered online that Dreyfuss would be at The Maritime Aquarium for a “Jaws” event.  They called the Aquarium, bought a membership and got their tickets … not just for Dreyfuss’ talk but also for a pre-show VIP meet-and-greet with the actor. And so they flew in to Boston a couple nights ago and, on June 14, found themselves at The Maritime Aquarium, thrilled for the chance to have a brief chat with Dreyfuss.

–  Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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