Aug 17, 2011
10:37 AMDiscover Connecticut
Exploring the Sound
My 11-year-old grandson was eager to go on a cruise—no, not on a fun-filled Disney cruise, not on a sleek yacht or fancy ocean liner cruise. His aspirations were more local and more scientific—he wanted to go on The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s Marine Life Study Cruise into Long Island Sound. We’d done the cruise the previous year, but apparently he liked it enough to do it again, so off we went. We parked next to the aquarium’s IMAX entrance, walked up to the dock and soon set sail (there were actually no sails involved with the 40-foot Oceanic, since this particular trawler is exclusively engine-powered). There were about 20 people on the cruise, most parents or grandparents with one or two kids in tow (you have to be 42 inches tall to participate, and kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult).
The aquarium educators got the participants, especially the kids, involved by having them throw out the trawl net at various depths; then together they examined the creatures gathered and the educators explained what they were, where they fit on the food chain and how their size (they’re measured too) is an indicator of the health of the Sound.
I was delighted to see how into the whole exercise the kids were—asking good questions, volunteering to touch and hold the various creatures and offering answers to the questions the educators posed (hint to those wanting to prep in advance: Bone up on plankton and photosynthesis). We learned all about everything from plankton gathered near the surface (which we viewed with a video-microscope) to creatures gathered at greater depths—all kinds of crabs, oysters and various types of flounder among them (there were no lobsters that day, probably because it had been too hot). My grandson, now a veteran cruiser, said, “Every time you go on the cruise, you find different things and learn different things, so it’s always interesting. This time I learned that flounder are left-sided fish, which means their eyes start on one side and migrate to the other.”
For me, it was just great to be out cruising the Sound on a beautiful summer day (wear a hat and bring sunscreen, by the way, as it gets hot out on the water), getting a quick course on Long Island Sound ecology and the Norwalk Islands (FYI, Tavern Island is for sale). But I got more too: a sense of how interdependent we and the Sound are, and a sense of responsibility for safeguarding the Sound for the sake of our planet. Well done, aquarium educators Maxine and Morgan, and Capt. Mike!
As for the downside, “You get a little wet, and the wake of other boats might shake the boat,” says my grandson, “but who can object to a little water and shaking?”
Marine Life Study Cruises leave at 1 p.m. daily through Aug. 31, then 1 p.m. Saturdays only in September and October, with weekday chartered cruises available for school groups. Tickets are $20.50 a person, $18.50 for members, $550 for school charters. Call (203) 852-0700, x 2206 or visit MaritimeAquarium.org.
Exploring the Sound