22 Mar: Welcome To Sea World

There were no orcas or rollercoasters, but there were ‘seamaids’ serving tropical drinks when Sea World San Diego first welcomed guests on 22nd March, 1964. 

Originally conceived as a themed restaurant with a marine show inside, the founders had pivoted to build a seaquarium instead, drawing thousands of eager visitors, including, bizarrely, Senator Barry Goldwater.

It wasn’t until the acquisition of the famous killer whale, Shamu, that SeaWorld’s identity truly solidified, but the park’s success sparked ethical debates about the treatment of animals, from ‘Free Willy’ to ‘Blackfish’.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly weigh up the park’s achievements in sealife conservation with the cruelty of keeping orcas in captivity; explain why the city of San Diego was so keen to back this innovative new attraction; and reveal how the Shamu phenomenon can trace its origins to one man’s dream of riding a whale like a waterski…  

Further Reading:

• ‘The Fantastical Vision for the Original SeaWorld’ (The Atlantic, 2014): https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/03/the-fantastical-vision-for-the-original-seaworld/284561/

• ‘Obituary: Milton Shedd, 79, Co-Founder of SeaWorld’ (The New York Times, 2002): https://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/28/business/milton-shedd-79-co-founder-of-seaworld.html?searchResultPosition=24

• ‘The Complete “One Ocean” Shamu Show at SeaWorld’ (Money Saving Videos, 2013):