Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sea World San Diego

Sea World VW Beatle
ShamuMobile (Flickr user Mike Liu/CC)
Northbound Highway 101 left Old Town San Diego, jogged a bit to the west then moved north along the shores of Mission Bay. At the South end of Mission Bay we come upon one of San Diego's most famous attractions, Sea World.

Sea World opened in 1964. Highway 101 was shortened in 1966 to an official starting point in Los Angeles. Interstate 5 was opening in 1965 as the Main North/South highway in San Diego and Orange Counties running over largely the same route. At the same time the Interstate was being built, several large scale housing development were in the works for Northern San Diego. Tourism had been drawing huge crowds (and revenue) into Orange County to the North because of Disneyland in Anaheim and San Diego city leaders wanted in on the action.

A plan was drawn up by the city allow development of an aquatic theme park on the edge of the already resort lined Mission Bay. The marine theme fit in nicely with the cities beachfront location as well as it success with its world famous zoo in Balboa Park. Two proposals for a marine park were considered. One backed by the San Diego Union, was a park designed by a group of local businessmen. This was the odds on favorite,

The SeaLand concept park introduced the idea of having an orca performing in shows. The plan would have had the orcas swimming in mock battles with sharks. Never mind the fact that no one had successful kept an orca in captivity. And having two predators performing together and doing stunts, what could possibly go wrong? The proposal also had shows with dolphins, penguins, penguins riding on dolphins and other sorts of unlikely marine entertainment.

The underdog proposal was submitted by 4 recent UCLA graduates, George Millay, Milt Shedd, Ken Norris and David DeMott. They were living in Los Angeles. Also in Los Angeles, an existing operation called Marineland  had been running since 1949 on the relatively remote Palos Verdes Peninsula, Marineland had been started as an aquarium and educational facility in marine biology. Within a few years to keep up income from visitors the park added shows featuring a trained pilot whale, as well as dolphin shows such as several other aquarium facilities around the country featured.

Sea World trainer rides dolphins
Dolphin Shows Are Still Part Of The Marine Park Experience 
(Flickr user Alexis Fam/CC)
The Los Angeles' groups plans did not include an orca. Their more modest, but more realistic plan was to build an underwater restaurant underneath a large aquarium. They won the bid and were allowed to begin development. Soon it was found that some practical issues proved their original plan unfeasible. Instead a 22 acres park was built and filled with dolphin and seal shows, 6 rides  and a sort of a "Disneyland meets Marineland on Mission Bay" atmosphere.

The park was more "fun" than the more scholarly Marineland in Los Angeles. It had  easier access too due to the new highway for visitors driving down from Los Angeles or Orange Counties. With a large local base also curious about the big new park, its first year was huge success with over 400,000 visitors.

For over 50 years Sea World has continued to entertain visitors with exhibitions of trained sea animals, most famously their orca shows. Here is a series of home videos of families visiting Sea World since it's opening.

Sea World had great first year. It's fame would continue to grow when their first orca named Shamu broke the life longevity record for an orca. Before Shamu the longest lived orca in captivity was 13 months. Shamu lived and entertained Sea World guest from shortly after the the parks opening in 1965 until she finally passed away in 1971. Shamu's long captive life gave Sea World credibility at the time as a humane operation.
Sea World orcas
Orcas Put Sea World On The Map 
(Flickr user Andy Morales/CC)
As years passedpublic opinion has changed on the humaneness of Sea World. The movie Free Willie had a significant effect on public opinion. Schoolchildren raised funds that led to the real life purchase and limited re-release in the wild of an orca named Keiko from a marine park in Mexico. Marine parks in general have gained a lot of scorn, and since Sea World the most famous Marine Theme park it has gotten particular attention from animal rights activists. in the last few years Sea World has seen a steady drop in attendance and frequent criticism for its operation and its very concept.

Sea World trainer rides orcas
Sea World Has Been Criticized For Not Respecting The Dignity Of Their Animals
(Flickr user Channone Arif/CC)

As part of our look at Sea World I now offer you a virtual day at the park with video playlists of all of the currently operating attractions and shows being performed. If you like the idea of Sea World here is a free sampler. If you hate the idea of Sea World, you can see the animals and build up a righteous rage.

Sea World Cirque De la Mer show aerialist
Cirque de la Mer Is A Non Animal Show
(Flickr user Mike Liu/CC)

The animal shows that made Sea World famous, and they are what is causing a public relations disaster for the part in recent years. The shows currently running are:
  • One Ocean
The orca show.
  • The Shamu Story
Another orca show
  • Blue Horizons
A dolphin show
  • Sea Lions LIVE
Yes, you guessed right, a sea lion show. Coupled with theme park caliber comedy.
  • Pets Rule
Do I need to say it? A pet show.
  • Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation
A song and dance numbers featuring costumed character from the animated film, Madagascar.
  • Cirque de la Mer
Cirque de Soleil style show on the edge of Mission Bay with acrobats, jet skis, French clowns-you get the picture.

Sea World Journey To Atlantis
Journey To Atlantis
(Wikimedia Commons)

Regardless of your opinion of the trained animal shows, Sea World does have more to recommend it.Ten rides and attractions offer something for the more thrill oriented guests. Although sea life is never far away in the theming,
  • Bayside Skyride
A classic gondola skyride that goes over the bay with stunning views.
  • Journey to Atlantis
A unique attraction that combines a water flume ride and a tracked coaster ride connected by a bit of dark ride.
  • Dolphin Point
A supervised "interact with dolphins" program.
  • Sea World Sky Tower
On of the original attraction a sky needle that his a revolving deck that rises up along its length like an elevator. Excellent views of Mission Bay and San Diego reward the passengers.
  • Sesame Street's Bay of Play
A playground/character area featuring theming and characters from Sesame Street. Toddler central.
  • Shipwreck Rapids
A typical white water rafting ride with some elaborate shipwreck/storm theming.
  • Turtle Reef
An underwater viewing are for a large sea turtle aquarium.
  • Wild Arctic
A simulated helicopter ride take you to an arctic research station where you can see a beluga whale, look at scientists quarters, see walls of ice and polar bears before exiting through the obligatory gift shop.
  • Riptide Rescue
A spinning ride with inflatable rescue boats as the theming.
  • Manta
The other big coaster for Sea World beside Journey to Atlantis.

Playlist Additions

A musical Sea World adventure of sorts. This weeks playlist is a fairly eclectic mix with everything from new wave to funk to french cafe jazz. The list has indie country-rock, 50's muzak, and marching bands. There is also has a modern interpretation of 1930's jazz soundtrack music, it has 60's psychedelic country rock, and 1980's English anarchist folk music. Then we move on to some harmonica blues, indie pop, sea chanty folk music and a beach fire folk singing. I hope you like it.
  • Vacation Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go's The Go-Go's 2:59
  • Love Rollercoaster Funk Classics: The 70's, Vol. 2 Ohio Players 4:50
  • Secrets Of The Sea Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 2 Billy Bragg & Wilco 2:42
  • Aquarium Motifs Paris Combo 4:32
  • The Calming Seas Beachwood Sparks Beachwood Sparks 3:20
  • Music For Vacation Fun Sound 8 2:15 LINK
  • Ocean Tide March American Brass Band Journal: A Collection of New and Beautiful Marches, Quick-Steps,and Polkas Arranged in an Easy Manner for Brass Bands of 12 Instruments Empire Brass 1:23
  • On To The Show The Beau Hunks Play The Original Little Rascals Music The Beau Hunks 0:50
  • Dolphin's Smile The Notorious Byrd Brothers The Byrds 2:00
  • Dolphins Don't Try This At Home Billy Bragg 4:20
  • Walking Thru The Park SuperHarps II Carey Bell 4:30
  • Vacation Connie Francis 2:20
  • Rollercoaster Post-War M. Ward 2:49
  • The Whale Weighting Anchor Shanghaied On The Willamette 6:38
  • Only The Ocean To The Sea Jack Johnson 3:39

Signing Off And Coming Attractions

Today's visit to Sea World is not about taking a stance pro or con on the ethics of an operation like this, I have my opinions, but would like to keep this blog as non partisan as possible, The fact is, this is a notable stop on our journey that could not be bypassed for reasons of avoiding controversy. Have you pleasant experiences about Sea World? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
  • Three Weeks: We move North out of San Diego through the first geographical challenge of many we will encounter as we continue North on the old Highway 101 in California.

Mileage Stats

Route 66: 0 Miles/1 State/1055 Tracks/268 Videos/41 Posts
Highway 101: 26 Miles/2 Countries/1 State/641 Tracks/407 Videos/31 Posts\
Interstate 95: 143 Miles/1 State/89 Tracks/144 Videos/15 Posts

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