Cruise out for the chance to see some of the seals and waterfowl that spend their winters in Long Island Sound during Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises offered this winter by The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. These invigorating 2½-hour outings take place aboard the Aquarium's R/V Spirit of the Sound™, the country's only research vessel with hybrid-electric propulsion.
The cruises seek out the harbor seals and gray seals that migrate down into the Sound from northern waters, which serve as their summer breeding and pupping areas. Seals often can be seen near the Norwalk islands when they "haul out" to rest on rocks exposed at low tide. Aquarium educators will point out these federally protected marine mammals and talk about their natural histories. And they'll also generally discuss what happens to the Sound's marine population during the winter: who stays, who migrates out, and who migrates in (besides the seals).
"As exciting as it is to see the seals that are exhibited inside The Maritime Aquarium, it's truly a memorable experience to see them out in Long Island Sound," said Tom Naiman, the Aquarium's director of education. "Those encounters also remind us how important the Sound is as a habitat for our marine-mammal friends, and all the other creatures that call it home."
These cruises also give birders unique "on-the-water" access to see and photograph visiting winter waterfowl, such as buffleheads, mergansers, Brant geese and long-tailed ducks. Plus, cruise participants can help Aquarium educators with plankton samplings. Data collected during the cruises is added to the Long Island Sound Biodiversity Project, which is an ongoing census of the Sound's animal species.
This online database is sponsored by the Aquarium and includes students in collecting data on the physical and biological contents of Long Island Sound. Binoculars will be provided. R/V Spirit of the Sound has a climate-controlled cabin but, because the best viewing is outside on the deck, participants should bring plenty of warm clothes.
The cruises offer memorable family fun but please note that all passengers must be at least 42 inches tall. Tickets for a Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruise are $24.95, or $19.95 for Aquarium members. Capacity is limited so advance reservations are strongly recommended. Walk-up tickets will be sold, space permitting. Reserve your spot by calling (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206, or by going online to
Cruises are offered Sat., Feb. 13 – 9 a.m. Sun., Feb. 14 – 9 a.m. Sat., Feb. 27 – 9 a.m. Sun., Feb. 28 – 9 a.m. Sun., March 13 – 1 p.m. Sat., March 19 – 1 p.m. Sun., March 20 – 2 p.m. Sun., April 3 – 1 p.m.