NORWALK, Conn. — Several boaters have reported spotting whales in the waters of Long Island Sound off the coast of Fairfield County, but one whale has been spotted on land — in the Maritime Aquarium.
This whale doesn’t consume marine life or breach the high seas. It is an inflatable walk-in model that offers visitors the chance to see the inside structure of the mammal that has captivated so many on the water in the past few weeks.
The aquarium had a model on loan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in January for an “Animals Without Passports” exhibit. And that gave the staff an idea.
"We got to thinking, 'Well, we should probably have one of these' ... so when the whales appeared in the Sound again in July, we sort of sped things up and decided now, 'Let's do this'," aquarium publicist Dave Sigworth said.
So the aquarium purchased a model of a baleen whale and set it up for all to see in Newman's Own Hall. Visitors can go inside the "whale" and see its tongue, heart, and the three — count 'em — stomachs.
The outside of the whale is to scale at 43 feet long. But the organs are shrunk down to make room for visitors to explore the inside as a real-life Jonah.
The organs of a whale are simply too big for a walk-in model. The heart alone is about the size of a Volkswagen, Sigworth said.
In addition to the whale, the aquarium decided to celebrate a "whale of a month" with screenings of the IMAX movie “Humpback Whales," a #WhalesForACause fundraiser with Vineyard Vines on Friday, and a staffed whale station featuring real baleen to touch, among other activities.
While the walk-in whale will be in the aquarium just through the month of August, it may make a return, Sigworth said.
“We’re excited to have it and be able to offer it from time to time,” he said.
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