Board the Maritime Aquarium’s new research vessel

Be among the first to ride the country’s only research vessel with hybrid-electric propulsion during exciting public cruises offered this summer by The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

R/V Spirit of the Sound™ begins her Aquarium service July 1, with outings at 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays through Labor Day.

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The $2.7 million, 64-foot catamaran is bigger, quieter and greener than the Aquarium’s former boat, a 40-foot diesel-powered trawler.

“The fish, crabs, squid and other marine creatures that we bring up onto the boat will have to share top billing during this first season with R/V Spirit of the Sound,” said Tom Naiman, the Aquarium’s education director. “Participants will come away very impressed with the boat – for her unique hybrid propulsion and state-of-the-art navigation systems, but even more for her broad educational and research capabilities.”

During each Marine Life Study Cruise, animals are brought up out of Long Island Sound from different water levels and bottom habitats. A video microscope connected to a big-screen monitor provides a magnified look at wriggly plankton gathered at the sunlit surface. A biodredge reveals a hidden world of sponges, mollusks, worms and tiny crabs. And everyone inspects the trawl net’s bounty: varieties of fish and crabs, skates, sea stars, squid and always a few surprises.

“Seeing these animals come up out of the water has a tremendous impact in helping our guests understand the diversity of marine life just off our shores and in inspiring them to act as stewards of the Sound and the environment when they go home,” Naiman said. “Plus, it’s just plain fun. Who hasn’t been on a boat ride and wondered, ‘What’s down there?’ Well, we show you.”

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Participants are involved hands-on throughout each cruise. They take measurements, sort through mud samples to find animals, help pull in the trawl net and return animals to the water.

Besides being fun and eye-opening, Marine Life Study Cruises also contribute to local scientific research. Water-chemistry and weather readings are taken. And details about the animals brought onboard are entered into the Aquarium’s Long Island Sound Biodiversity Project, a database of physical and biological features available online to teachers and researchers.

All passengers must be at least 42 inches tall. Particpants under age 21 must be accompanied by an adult.

The 2½- hour cruises depart from the dock outside the Aquarium’s IMAX® move theater.

Tickets for a Maritime Aquarium Marine Life Study Cruise are $29.95 (or $24.95 for Aquarium members).

Discounted triple combination tickets for a study cruise, Aquarium admission and IMAX movie are $49.95 for adults, $47.95 for youths (13-17) & seniors (65+), and $42.95 for ages 12 & under.

Advance ticket purchases are strongly recommended; walk-up tickets will be sold, space permitting. Get advance tickets online at www.maritimeaquarium.org. The triple combination tickets are not available online; instead, call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206, weekdays between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

In addition to the public outings, R/V Spirit of the Sound can be chartered for Marine Life Study Cruises by summer camps, Scouts and other groups at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays-Sundays and at 9 a.m. & 1 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays.

R/V Spirit of the Sound also can be chartered for special outings on the Sound, including corporate celebrations and team-building events. Call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206, for details.

For area information www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com

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