Monday, September 8, 2008

September 2008


Research Vessel ArgoExpedition to the Sea of Cortez

A serious scientific expedition of the ocean will also have an unusual and poignant literary twist. In mid-September, Aquarium Vice President of Global Marine Programs Dr. Greg Stone will lead an expedition to investigate the underwater mountains of the Sea of Cortez off the Mexican coast. Joining the trip's oceanographers, submarine operators, underwater photographers and technical staff will be Wendy Benchley, the widow of the late writer Peter Benchley.

In the early 1980s, Peter wrote The Girl of the Sea of Cortez, the lyrical tale of a young woman who has a special love and unique understanding of the ocean. Expedition leader Greg Stone, a close friend of the author for decades, remembers Peter's return from a trip to the Sea of Cortez. "Peter was so enthused about what he had seen. The marine life was overwhelming. He had even hitched a ride on a giant manta ray. The entire experience became the basis for The Girl of the Sea of Cortez. It was his favorite of all the books that he had written."A quarter-century later, Greg invited Peter's widow, Wendy, to join an expedition to the site of her husband's inspiration. Since Peter's death, Wendy has been furthering her husband's legacy as an ardent ocean conservationist.

Much of the Sea of Cortez is remote and rich with marine life. Pacific gray whales use it as a winter nursery for their calves, and hammerhead sharks gather there in huge numbers. From September 11 to 17, the expedition will explore and document the rich diversity of marine life of the El Bajo Seamount. Ecologically vital habitats, seamounts can be oases of rich, unique and complex marine life. They have not been extensively studied and are threatened by human exploitation. The expedition team will use a small research submarine to investigate the deep-water life along the steep sides of these underwater mountains. Divers will also closely examine the seamount's summit, which rises to just 60 feet below the water's surface.

Join the expedition by reading the team's daily blog, and take a voyage to the hauntingly beautiful Sea of Cortez.

See You In September

Shark in the GOTSummer is almost officially over, but that doesn't mean activity at the Aquarium will be cooling off! We'd like to thank all who came to check out Sharks and Rays and made it such a success. A record-breaking number of visitors experienced these fascinating animals up-close and learned why they do not deserve their fearsome reputations. The touch tank has closed, but you can still come face-to-face with sharks and rays as they swim around our Giant Ocean Tank.

Visitors will see--and hear--another major change occurring on our plaza. Construction for the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center is well underway on the Harbor Terrace. As a result, our fur seals are currently enjoying a vacation at the New York Aquarium, but don't worry--they will be back when the center opens next summer.

David B. Stone Award

Every year, the New England Aquarium presents the David B. Stone Award to individuals or organizations to recognize distinguished service on behalf of the oceans. The award was established in 1970 in honor of the New England Aquarium's principal founder, David B. Stone. This year, the Aquarium is pleased to present the award to His Excellency, President Anote Tong of Kiribati in recognition of his commitment to conservation and his leadership in establishing the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). President Tong has given voice to the particular challenges facing small island states, as rising sea levels threaten their very existence. In March of 2006, the Kiribati government--in collaboration with the New England Aquarium and Conservation International--officially established the PIPA. Today, it is the world's largest marine protected area and includes critical ocean habitats, containing some species found nowhere else in the world.

Phoenix Islands

Spotlight on Research

By Amanda Thompson, Lab Manager

At 120,000 pounds, North Atlantic right whale Phoenix is quickly becoming one of the biggest celebrities around! Recently, researchers at the Aquarium finished consulting on a project to create an exact model of Phoenix for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History's new Sant Ocean Hall. The Phoenix model will be the focal point of the exhibit--a full-size, 45-foot replica that will hang from the center of the hall.

Phoenix was chosen not just because Aquarium researchers here have tracked her since she was a calf and have extensive knowledge of her family tree, but also because she is an excellent example of the dangers right whales face. In 1997, Phoenix became seriously--almost fatally--entangled in gill net fishing gear. It took her almost two years to recover. To make her story even more tragic, her mother Stumpy was killed in the winter of 2004 from a ship strike in the waters off Virginia.

Phoenix The Right Whale
The Smithsonian's model will clearly show all of Phoenix's scars caused by the entanglement, including a very distinctive lip scar, which serves as a permanent reminder of her ordeal.

Learn more about how the Aquarium's research team works to save right whales, then meet Phoenix (#1705) and her mother Stumpy (#1004) through the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog.

Save Green, Live Blue

When you waste water, you waste blue and green. These tips will keep your household water-efficient, saving you money on water and energy bills and helping you live the blue lifestyle! For more information, visit the Mass. Water Resource Authority online.

1. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, shave, wash your face or scrub dishes.

2. Reduce the water volume of each toilet flush by placing a water-filled plastic bottle weighted with gravel in the tank. (Be sure not to interfere with the flushing mechanism.)

3. Low-flow faucet aerators mix air with tap water to efficiently reduce water flow by half.

4. Water efficient showerheads dramatically decrease the gallons used per minute without sacrificing the benefits of a satisfying shower.

5. High-efficiency washers use less water, expend less energy to heat the water, require less energy and time to dry your clothes, and create less wear and tear on your garments.

Source: Massachusetts Water Resource Authority, "How Does A Tub of Bubbles Save You Water?"

Don't Miss These Upcoming Events

State-Wide Beach Clean-Ups

Annual beach clean-ups around Massachusetts begin September 20. These events help your local beaches and marine life and are a great and meaningful way to drive home the importance of living the blue lifestyle. Find a beach clean-up near you.

Help Celebrate the Inauguration of the Greenway!

October 4

Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston waterfront

Join the Aquarium to help celebrate the opening of the Greenway and the opportunity to reconnect to the city. Meet up with a friend, bump into a neighbor, and enjoy concerts by favorite local bands, free dance lessons and more. Call it a meet and greet, a get together, a reunion--doesn't matter. The Rose Kennedy Greenway is now open and ready to bring Boston back together.

Family Field Trip: Ponkapoag Bog Hike

October 11, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Blue Hills Reservation, Canton

After a short hike, we will investigate the carnivorous plants, reptiles and amphibians that make their homes in this quaking bog.

Gallery Behind-the-Scenes Tour

September 21

October 19

Get an inside view of what it takes to care for our animals and exhibits. Learn how we feed the animals, how we keep the exhibits clean and how we make sure our animals are healthy.

Green EarthSave the Date: Climate Change Symposium
February 5, 2009

Along with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Aquarium will host a climate change symposium next February. The purpose of the symposium is to bring business leaders, policy makers and non-governmental organizations together to examine the impacts of climate change and acidification on the marine environment. The symposium is by invitation only. Please contact Vickie Cataldo at or 617-973-0235 if you or your organization is interested in attending.

Now Playing at the

Simons IMAX Theatre

Simons IMAX Theatre

The Aquarium is taking the blogosphere by storm! Our staff's talents and insights are branching out online, making for the best ocean reads the web has to offer. Check out our blogs:

See video of breaching right whales and mom and calf pairs on the Right Whale Bay of Fundy Blog.

Get the latest seal photos and videos from the Marine Mammal Trainers Blog, including live entries of northern fur seals being transported to the New York Aquarium.

Experience the GOT from the divers' perspective in the Giant Ocean Tank Blog.

Aquarium Lecture Series

Aquarium Lectures are free and open to the public but require registration. Programs start at 7 p.m. in the Aquarium's Harborside Learning Lab, unless otherwise noted. They last approximately one hour, followed by a reception.

Thousand Mile Song

David Rothenberg, author, composer and jazz clarinetist

September 15

The Largest Canyon in the Ocean

Michelle Ridgway, marine ecologist

September 29

Whales: Candles, Cheeses and Pigs in Disguise?

Dr. Heather Koopman, Assistant Professor, Duke University

October 6

Tuna: A Love Story

Richard Ellis, author

October 14

This event will take place in the Aquarium's Harbor View Cafe.

Celebrate Seafood

October 7, 7 p.m.

Foodies, wine connoisseurs and even environmentalists can now get insider seafood tips from the New England Aquarium's Celebrate Seafood Dinner Series, a fine-dining experience that teaches guests how to buy, prepare and serve ocean-friendly seafood.

Each event features a three-course tasting menu highlighting a variety of sustainable seafood choices and cooking demonstrations from Aquarium and celebrity guest chefs.

October's dinner highlights farm-raised mussels, wild-caught Alaska salmon and farm-raised cobia, and features special guest Chef Paul O'Connell of Chez Henri.

Dive In!

Register now to introduce your child to the world of water.

Toddler Explorers: Ocean Opposites

September 16, 23, 30, October 7 at 9:30 a.m. or

September 19, 26, October 3, 10 at 11 a.m.

Preschool Explorers: Ocean Opposites

September 16, 23, 30, October 7 at 11 a.m. or

September 19, 26, October 3, 10 at 9:30 a.m.

Little Fishes Play Group

September 17, 24, October 1, 8, 15, 22 at 9:30 a.m.

Ocean Detectives Saturday Exploration

Sharks: September 13, 10 a.m. for 5- to 7- year-olds and 2 p.m. for 8- to 10-year-olds

Penguins: October 4, 10 a.m. for 5- to 7-year-olds and 2 p.m. for 8- to 10-year-olds

Marine Studies
The Marine Studies Consortium teaches evening undergraduate courses in marine/aquatic sciences and environmental management. The Biology of Fishes course offered at the Aquarium may be the only ichthyology course in the world where students use the resources of a major aquarium at every class meeting.

World of Water in the News