photo of the day (a trip to the aquarium)
We have been going to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk for many years. In fact, when my hunny and I first moved to Connecticut from Brooklyn Heights back in 1989, he worked for a company across the street from the then Maritime Center, a much smaller and quieter version of the Aquarium it’s now become. Back then, I used to sit in almost solitude to eat lunch and watch the seals. Years later I would bring my babies to toddle through the exhibits and then nurse them by the sharks or better yet the jellyfish while enjoying the quiet, hypnotic view of creatures floating, drifting and swimming in large dimly lit tanks. My son Nick has always loved penguins and so when we heard that the Aquarium had acquired a penguin exhibit we knew we would have to make some time for a visit.
I had a feeling there would be more hype than substance to the advertised “Penguin Encounter” but the promise of a penguin close up was intriguing and so we got in line to see what we could see. I wasn’t too encouraged by either the size of the crowd or the announcement beforehand that the Aquarium was overwhelmed by the response to this exhibit. There was only one penguin viewing per day and this was on a first come, first serve basis. One little jackass penguin (not a judgment on my part, but that’s what kind of penguin he is, really) walks out into a small boxing ring in the center of the viewing area and does his little penguin thing depending on his little penguin mood for the day. Ok, it was free (with the price of admission.) The Penguin Encounter at the Mystic Aquarium, while much more interactive and intimate, is also about $65 a person (at least it was when I last looked into it several years ago) so free sounded good.
We had gotten to the Aquarium later than I would have liked and we were pretty far back in line. All the spots on the floor reserved for kids nearest the penguin arena were taken by the time we were let in and we all had to grab standing spots on some risers towards the back. Nick wasn’t in a good position to take any pictures which frustrated him a bit and Clare wanted to sit closer on the floor. But it was what it was and soon after everyone was settled, they led a penguin named Astro out into the ring. It seems there are only a few of the exhibit penguins who are comfortable enough around people to come out and be on display. The handlers have to go and convince one of these performing penguins that they should come out and play. What they do while in front of the crowd is anyone’s best guess. Astro seemed to think that the audience was on display for him. At least that’s what it looked like to me. He wandered around the ring looking out into the crowd with this puzzled expression on his face, trying to figure out why we were all staring at him. In the end, it was kind of fun. It was, after all, the closest I’ve ever been to a penguin without a piece of dirty glass between us.
The rest of the exhibits were the same familiar ones we’ve seen many, many times but still love. We visited the seals and watched them swim. We headed for the frogs and wandered past tanks of interesting fish.
We watched the turtles swimming around their circular tank.
We made a quick stop to watch the jellies float hypnotically to the top of their tank before descending to the bottom and then rising once again. Then we headed home. I hope we never outgrow our trips to the Aquarium.