It is hard to imagine the focus on Marine Studios, now the Marineland Dolphin Adventure, when it opened to the public 81-years ago, on June 24th. Record-setting crowds estimated to be 25,000-30,000 guests attended the opening ceremonies in the days before there was a SeaWorld or the other “World” attractions of Central Florida.
The cost to build Marine Studios was reportedly $500,000, a small fortune in 1938, less than a decade since America began rebuilding from the Great Depression. Both employees and fishermen accumulated specimen swordfish, carpenter sharks, electric eel, deep sea grouper, several species of sharks, saltwater angelfish and many others.
“Massed cars stood for hours, unable to move an inch,” one article reported of the day the spectacular tourist attraction was thrown open to the public. “yet their occupants apparently did not think of departing.”
Children and adults were fascinated with the skills and intelligence of Florida’s official saltwater mammal, even though the debate continues over the difference between a porpoise and a dolphin. Usually, in Florida, both names refer to the bottlenose dolphin, the species commonly found along Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Dolphins are gray with a lighter underside and most adults are six-to-eight feet in length.
Before there was an Interstate 95 in St Johns or Flagler counties, visitors traveled US-1 south and crossed over to SR-A1A just to get a glimpse of the undersea wonders that were revealed by the world’s largest working aquarium and its gigantic saltwater tanks. Despite a torrential downpour just prior to the opening ceremony, the throngs blocked traffic for miles along Ocean Shore Boulevard, north and south of Marineland, according to news reports that day.
Dolphins use a system of echolocation, much like sonar, to determine their orientation. They have no sense of smell. Their keen eyesight, remarkable hearing, and a wide variety of sounds, including barks, clicks, and whistles, make dolphins especially interesting to study.
Free-range dolphins can live to the age of thirty; although, some of the saddest news reported by Historic City News over the past 19-years came on May 2, 2014. Marineland Dolphin Adventure announced that Atlantic bottlenose dolphin “Nellie”, the longest-lived dolphin in human care, had died. She was 61 years old.
Marine Studios also attracted the interest of Hollywood; providing the backdrop for several television and movie productions that included episodes of Flipper and the motion picture, Creature from the Black Lagoon.