By Dave Sigworth, publicist of The Maritime Aquarium
Some good news from down on Coney Island was announced this week, when the Wildlife Conservation Society put out the word that the New York Aquarium will partially reopen this spring.
Like most everything down that way, the Aquarium was devastated by Hurricane Sandy on the night of Oct. 29.
As the WCS said in its statement: “Surge waters from the Atlantic Ocean came over and under the Coney Island Boardwalk, completely or partially flooding all buildings at the 14-acre park. The ocean flood waters destroyed or significantly damaged the facility’s heating, air conditioning, and electrical power and distribution equipment and aquatic life support systems. Flooding damaged the interiors of most exhibit buildings. Losses in the collection were minimal and limited to fish and invertebrates housed in a few tanks. The damage was significant to the infrastructure and the facility has been closed since the night of the storm.”
Estimates put damage to the aquarium at $65 million. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed funds in the city’s capital-improvements budget to repair it. And the WCS has been seeking private donations to help get the aquarium up and running.
Segments that will reopen late this spring – no specific date given – include: the outdoor Sea Cliffs with sea lions, seals, otters, penguins and walrus; the main hall exhibits; and the sea lion demonstration “Aquatheater.”
This isn’t the first time in recent years that a hurricane has taken out a public aquarium. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swamped the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans (it was closed for nine months) and also washed away the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Miss. (It never reopened. Here’s a great story about how eight dolphins that were swept out to sea from the Oceanarium stayed together off shore, and were visited and fed several times a day by trainers who boated out to them and eventually rescued them: http://goo.gl/Bxz75 )
The Maritime Aquarium’s brush with Sandy was nothing like the New York Aquarium’s. Power was lost briefly, but our two big emergency generators took over. Water did surge up the Norwalk River outside onto our back courtyard, and rose up to – but not over – the top step of our loading dock. Several heroic members of the animal husbandry and maintenance departments spent two nights here, to care for the animals and handle any issues that came up.
We’re thankful to have made it through Sandy unscathed and celebrate the New York Aquarium’s coming return.