The New England Aquarium, in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the most prominent and popular public aquariums in the United States. Founded in 1969 on the city's waterfront, it is considered one of the first modern public aquariums and is credited with revolutionizing the modern aquarium experience for visitors through its emphasis on a more natural setting for aquatic life. With a mission ?to present, promote and protect the world of water,? it remains one of the few such institutions with commitments to research and conservation as well as education and entertainment.
In addition to the main aquarium building, attractions at the New England Aquarium include the Simons IMAX Theatre and the New England Aquarium Whale Watch, which operates from April through November according to its website. More than 1.5 million people visit the aquarium and theatre each year.
Located in the central open atrium of the main building, the principal feature of the Aquarium is the Giant Ocean Tank, a cylindrical 200,000 gallon (750,000 liter) tank simulating a Caribbean coral reef. This tank houses sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, eels, barracuda, and many smaller reef-living fish. Open at the top, the concrete tank is surrounded by a walkway that spirals down, allowing visitors access to 52 windows that offer views of the reef from every angle and level.
At the bottom, the tank stands in a large, square 150,000 gallon penguin exhibit, hosting African penguins, Northern and Southern rockhopper penguins and little blue penguins. The penguin exhibit can be seen from the spiral walkway of the central tank or from elevated viewing areas that completely surround the perimeter. The penguins live on several artificial rock islands in the exhibit.
Surrounding the atrium are three levels of smaller exhibits including:
The Thinking Gallery, also known as the Temperate Gallery, featuring Goliath grouper, ancient fishes, rare sea dragons, coastal environments, and thousands of schooling fish.
The Freshwater Gallery focuses on freshwater habitats in South America compared to New England river systems. This gallery features piranhas, anacondas, electric eels, and Atlantic salmon.
The Edge of the Sea tide pool. Visitors are allowed to touch New England tide pool animals including sea stars, sea urchins, snails, hermit crabs, and horseshoe crabs.
The Northern Waters of the World Gallery focuses on New England marine habitats compared to Pacific Northwest habitats. The gallery features shorebirds, colored lobsters, goosefish, Giant Pacific Octopus, and countless other invertebrates.
The Tropical Gallery features many colorful tropical fish, cuttlefish, venomous fish including lionfish, scorpionfish, and living corals.
The Animal Medical Center gives visitors a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to care for thousands of creatures including fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds.
In front of the Aquarium is a harbor seal exhibit. It can be seen for free without going into the building. Seven Northern fur seals are on exhibit behind the Aquarium in the open-air New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center on the harborside terrace, which opened in 2009 with views of Boston Harbor. All the New England Aquarium's marine mammals participate in daily training sessions that are open for public viewing and participation.
The new West Wing was completed in 1998 by Schwartz/Silver Architects. The glass and steel addition includes the harbor seal exhibit on the public plaza, ticketing booth, changing exhibit galleries, gift shop, cafe, and lobby. The Amazing Jellies exhibit features moon jellies, sea nettles, upside-down jellies, Palauan Lagoon jellies and Australian spotted jellies, all from diverse habitats around the world. Another recent expansion is a separate building housing a 3-D IMAX theater.