The Newport Aquarium is capping its 20th anniversary celebration by adding an extensive new exhibit featuring a sunken shipwreck.
Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels is one of the aquarium's biggest developments in terms of storytelling and enhancing the guest experience, according to Executive Director Eric Rose.
"It represents over a million dollar investment into our guest experience," Rose says. "It will be home to thousands of animals including mysterious eels, brightly colored fish and curious crustaceans that thrive in this accidental reef."
The exhibit will include five zones themed around a sunken ship that's become transformed into a reef. The highlight is a group of green moray eels that can reach up to five feet in length.
Rose expects the centerpiece green moray eels will be a crowd-pleaser.
"We constantly ask our guests what they want to see here at Newport Aquarium and green moray eels rank up there, maybe not close as penguins, but they're toward the top of the list."
The eels are actually more of a brown or yellow color, getting the yellow hue from a mucous covering that protects them from parasites. They're native to the Western Atlantic from New Jersey to Bermuda and the Gulf of Mexico on to Brazil along with the Eastern Atlantic near the Ascension Islands. They're typically found in tropical waters around coral reefs.
"They're very majestic but they're not necessarily huge like a large shark or something like that," Rose explains. "They have this strong sense of power and ominous nature but they're really chill at the same time. They're kind of like the big, cool, chill guy."
Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels will be built in the space previously known as Dangerous & Deadly.