In 1938, two wealthy cousins, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and W. Douglas Burden, joined forces to create a special kind of museum, which today is known as Marineland of Florida. Because both they and everyone else who played major roles in opening the park had some kind of association with movie making, this new museum was designed to be like watching a movie – except that what you’re watching is real and alive. The park was designed to look just like the underwater world as it is in nature, with fish, sharks, and an artificial reef with reel coral that had been shipped in from the Florida Keys. Its purpose was to supply film makers with ideal opportunities for filming reef scenes, fish, sharks, rays, and dolphins, whether it be for a newsreel, a movie, or television series. The park was called Marine Studios, and it opened in June of 1938 on a stretch of land that had an inner-coastal waterway (the Matanzas River) on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Over 20,000 people crammed into the park on opening day, in June of 1938.
Film Making, Tourism, & Research
Marine Studios quickly grew to a popular tourism attraction, studio for film makers, and lab for scientists. Scientists were constantly coming in to do research on the animals at Marine Studios, and film makers found it as the perfect place to shoot underwater pictures, which were becoming more and more in demand in Hollywood. It was also one of Florida’s most popular attractions, all the way until the 1970s, after the opening of Disney World.
During this time, Marine Studios played a major role in shaping how we see dolphins today – playful, friendly, and smart. Back then, many people saw dolphins as pests, as they ate lots of fish and would even teach themselves how to steal fish from fishermen. The Marine Mammal Protection Act had not yet been passed, so angry fishermen were free to shoot, harpoon, or kill dolphins in other ways at will. As people began to realize just how amazing dolphins are from places like Marine Studios, film makers began coming to Marine Studios to film dolphins. In fact, the first dolphin birth to ever be recorded on video occured at Marine Studios.
In the 1950s, Marine Studios became Marineland of Florida. In 1981, “Benji,” the dog from the television series, was the first dog to go scuba diving, at Marineland. In 2003, the facility closed, but was later reopened as Marineland Dolphin Conservation center in 2006. Marineland was then focused on education and animal-human interactions. In 2011 the conservation center was acquired by Georgia Aquarium, and was renamed Marineland Dolphin Adventure, also commonly known as Marineland of Florida.
Today, Marineland of Florida is dedicated to education and inspiration, and also offers many different dolphin-human interaction programs. Although they no longer have formal dolphin shows, training sessions are available for the public to watch, and the facility has a large selection of underwater viewing areas and an elevated platform that allows you to see the surface of the pool. Although they used to, Marineland no longer captures dolphins from the wild, and staff are dedicated to making sure the dolphins stay happy and healthy.
To learn more about Marineland, or to buy tickets, visit their website at www.Marineland.net.