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Maritime Aquarium Visitors Can Have Whale Of A Time At New Exhibit

“Animals Without Passports,” a new exhibit in The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, explores how and why New England’s humpback whales migrate thousands of miles every year – and also the dangers they face en route. Photo Credit: Contributed
See what it's like to stand beside – and inside – a life-size humpback in "Walk Through A Whale," part of the special fun as the aquarium celebrates whales from Jan. 16-24. Photo Credit:

NORWALK, Conn. – The humpback whale, and its challenging annual migration, is the focus of the special exhibit, “Animals Without Passports,” now open at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

The humpback population off Cape Cod supports a popular whale-watching industry. And, for the first time in decades, at least three whales spent the late summer of 2015 in western Long Island Sound.

But humpbacks aren’t in New England waters year-round, according to the exhibit created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

The 842-square-mile protected marine area at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay is a natural summer haven for whales -- and whale-watchers -- because of its abundant feeding opportunities.

Displays in “Animals Without Passports” help aquarium guests understand the challenges of humpback whales’ annual 3,000-mile migration between their summer feeding grounds in New England and their winter breeding grounds in the Caribbean.

The exhibit details when and why the whales migrate and the hazards they face as they cross ocean borders. Those hazards can include: poisoning from pollution, becoming entangled in fishing gear, and being hit by boats and ships.

“This exhibit -- and the lessons it offers regarding our role in protecting whales -- couldn’t be more relevant because we not only welcomed several humpbacks into Long Island Sound this year but we also saw one killed by a probable boat collision,” said John Lenzycki, the aquarium’s curator of animals.

The exhibit is installed in the lobby of The Maritime Aquarium’s IMAX Theater because, the aquarium said, it is a perfect tie-in to the movie “Humpback Whales,” being shown daily through May 26.

The aquarium says the movie better than being on an actual whale watch because it shows humpbacks life-size -- and larger -- on the six-story screen. Audiences can join scientists studying how these ocean giants communicate, sing, play, feed and care for their young.

“Guests holding tickets to any of our IMAX movies will find ‘Animals Without Borders’ interesting, but those seeing ‘Humpback Whales’ will want to spend time before and after the movie at the exhibit, discovering more about whales and our roles in making their environment clean and safe,” Lenzycki said.

“Animals Without Passports” tells its story by focusing on one whale, a female humpback named Salt who has been studied by researchers for 40 years.

The exhibit traces Salt’s “family tree” tells how scientists identify and track individual whales.

For more information about exhibits and programs at the aquarium, click here .

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