Institute for Deep Sea Exploration Mystic CT


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Aug 29, 2000
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As promised earlier, I visited the Ballard center at Mystic Aquarium today- not remembering it was the last week before the kiddies return to school. The crowds were intense but I went to take notes for The Boat People so here goes-
First stop, the ticket booth- $16 bucks per adult, 11 for children 3-12, under 3, free. That was a rude shock for many parents with large families. One is presented with the usual glossy map of exhibit foldout. What was the old aquarium has changed little and the penguins, seal show, whales and seahorses were swell as always-the exhibits user-friendly, with seats around for old folks and new Moms. The Ballard addition (which took a Connecticut state -level approval and grant-) resembles a blue metal dixie cup turned upside down. This is plopped in front which used to be the parking lot. There is a pool in front of it containing a mock-up of the back end of a deep-sea vessel with a submersible "Turtle" mini-sub. One end of the pool has radio- guided "research vessels" which for a quarter a go the kids can operate briefly. While waiting there is a penny machine which costs 51 cents to press the likeness of a fish on your penny-proceeds to the institute. A large and very strange structure which kind of loooks like an upside down lattice breadbasket pokes up in front of the pool, serving no apparent function. Beneath this dubious canopy is a drink stand (water 1.75, a small coke 2.00- ice cream stand, and junk souvenirs all at exhorbitant prices. For $100 more your family can pet whales for a session- seals are cheaper. The seal show was OK- I like seals. Then I went to see the "Titanic exhibit"- Now I know what you are thinking- you think as one not entirely bowled over by Ballard and Co. I went in predisposed to dislike it. But the following is the truth and nothing but, charitably stated: Through the ramp and through the door, turn to the right to find a mock-up of the control center aboard one of the reearch vessels- pretty good. Then down a short hall to see some recovered Carribbean amphora and entrance to the 8 minute film which is in a stand-up theatre like a mini- mini Omni theatre. The film was a little strange- a woman waxes lyrical about the sea from space, cut to deep ocean, strange critters swimming, melding with the plankton- not bad-the voices croons on about souls, one with the universe, etc. My feet got tired- no seats. The design is a little dangerous as the drop to the curved screen floor is steep and parents would dangle their babies on the railing- I held my breath. Then the doors open to a voice-over of Ballard urging us on as "EXPLORERS!" A cool bathysphere sat in the floor, some photos of explorers around and a short TV size screen with a film about deepsea diving over the decades. I wonder who designed this space- REALLY rotten sense of space and display. More grecian urn things in cases, a couple of interactive games I could not figure out-then in the center was the Titanic model- really nice- about 70 inches- in a case. Behind it was a mock-up of the wireless room complete with Home Depot cabinets. The disturbing thing was acres of thin black mesh which enveloped the entire space upon which plankton were swimming vigorously to give that You Are There feeling but failing miserably. Some old footage from National Geo dives were shown behind this mesh to give the idea one was seeing it through the sub window- the end effect was cloudy and hard to follow. On the mesh the section was cartooned to match what was on the film with a label what it was. The whole thing lasted only a few minutes (peering intently through the mesh which was dazzled by lights overhead from other exhibits and noises of speakers from same. )That was it for Titanic. The rest was a promo for his new Flood and Noah's Ark opening Sept. 14th- most UNIMPRESSIVE was the sneakpeak)- a Rosetta Stone? And what looks like Mrs. Noah's kitchen. Will speak of the GIFT shop in the following posting. I am still wondering where the "Institute" was.....
 
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The gift emporium was tailor-made to separate parents from their bucks- if they had any left after the admission and food-a-rama. All manner of toys, junk, and souvenirs in sealife shapes. I thought the Institute- which made a point of its educational opportunities -would have all sorts of great teacher aides, reasonably priced, books, etc. There is a large display of all the Ballard books, all at top price (40-45 dollars)The Eternal Deep being his personal account- then the tee shirt (mud brown with a tiny Institute logo ($16)- baseball cap ($14) and the bargain coffee mug and key chain for 3.75-4.00. National Geo videos were all $25. I asked the ticket seller on the way out where the Institute was- glassy stare. And that, friends, is all there is to say.
 

Tracy Smith

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Nov 5, 2000
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South Carolina USA
Mystic Seaport has changed a lot since I visited in 1966 when I was eight years old. If I remember rightly, they had sailing ships there available for tour. I have some photos of myself taken aboard a sailing ship, and I believe it was at Mystic.
 
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Mystic Seaport is an entirely different place from Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration. The little whaling village you saw with the Charles Morgan is unchanged happily since it opened decades ago. To get a better view of the place I describe above visit the very appealing website-would that the actual place were as exciting! :
http://www.ife.org/index1.cfm
Click on Ballard for links to other organizations including National Geo and the THS
 
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Karen Sweigart

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My husband and I were at the aquarium when we were on our honeymoon. I remember him moaning about the price. I enjoyed it though. Too bad the Titanic exhibit wasn't there when we were.
 
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Actually Karen- you didn't miss a thing..trust me on this one. If you have the National Geo tape you will see more and more clearly than what was Behind The Black Mesh! Of course maybe Noah's Ark will redeem the place....
 
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Karen Sweigart

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On the topic of exhibits, a friend of mine at work was telling me about the Titanic exhibit at Innerharbor in Baltimore. Now he's not into the Titanic, but did check it out and thought it was pretty nice. Anyone on the board been there?
 
May 8, 2001
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Just came across this post Shelly, and would like to thank you for the tour and disheartening opinion. (Better that we know BEFORE we decide to go) Just to let you and everyone else know, when I went on board the Queen Mary I was in for an unexpected and unpleasant surprise, as the family had been there in 1998 and it was reasonable. Now it was $18.00 to see her, $8.00 more if I wanted a short guided tour, $10.00 more if I wanted to tour the sub, and $8.00 parking, which, as you said was "a rude shock to parents with large families". We wont even go into the several dollar sodas, pricey antique stores and cutesy gift shops with $60.00 books, $35.00 videos, $25.00 tee shirts, and $9.00 cheap wooden tugboats. They closed at 6:00 p.m. so it wasn't like you had spent that sort of money at Disneyland and stay until midnight. THEN to top it off, they had the whole engine room closed off so they could start to decorate the room for the halloween haunt they put on, so all the tourists were not able to see the propeller and engine room area which is a great part to have to give up, and still pay full price. I put it all aside because I SO much wanted to meet some other members of the ET board, and I would do it again in a second, but this one has now been put in the catagory as "Special ~family~ treat". Let's hope that it doesn't slide into the "Once in a lifetime" catagory.
I went to Scripps in San Diego with the family a while ago, and it was pretty pricey too, (Don't remember off hand the cost), but Sea World has priced themselves out of any reasonable rate to go there. I think it was $38.00 each the last time I checked, (Only open until 5 or 6) and my daughter was saying that you had to pay extra to see Shamu now. That is as ludicris as paying extra to see the animals in the zoo. Jeeze..........
I, as a parent, am sickened by this gouging, and having to decide which ~ONE or TWO~ things you will take your children to on vacation. Mine have a great curiousity, and taking them to it brings it to life and they remember it so much more.
Just venting. Thanks.....
Colleen
 
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