Marineland of Florida- The Way It Was


Apart from the shark-repellent project, Shark Repellent , little remained to mark the existence of the Marine Studios except its huge investment in steel and concrete. Even this deteriorated shockingly in the grip of four years of weather. The cement walls of the oceanarium cracked and chipped away and the metal surfaces grew ugly jackets of rust. At the end of 1945 the directors had to decide whether to accept their losses or to try to recover them by spending a great deal more money. They chose to man the pumps. ( Actually, there were at the moment no pumps to man, as they had been turned to shipyards and war factories.) While the rehabilitation crew went to work early in 1946 the directors had to decide how best to restock the oceanarium. The Porpoise I had been sold early in the war and since they now had collecting boat of their own they decided to engage Captain William B. Gray to conduct what was undoubtedly the most ambitious expedition of its kind in history. Gray's Marine Studios task force consisted of a 36-foot cruiser , the Beau Gregory , together with several smaller power boats. For the reason that captured fish had to be quickly brought in and transferred to the oceanarium, Gray's expedition was not just one long marine safari, but a series of shorter ones. In six months he caught literally thousands of fish for the oceanarium, certainly a record both from the standpoint of quantity and variety. The gigantic haul included a number of jewfish, none weighing under a hundred pounds, eight six-foot barracuda, two tarpon, a dozen moray eels, sea turtles weighing up to two hundred pounds, three tiger sharks all over twelve feet in length, a sawfish, a twenty-two hundred pound manta ray and six porpoises. Also Octopuses, sea horses and additional hundreds of pounds of assorted tropical fish from the Caribbean. In the capture of the large sawfish Gray, after reeling him in to within a few feet of Beau Gregory , entrusted his pole to a crew member. Then he seized a coil of hemp rope and made a lasso, which, when the sawfish was brought alongside he dropped over the five foot saw. The sawfish lunged off as if this were his first run and it was all Gray could do to hold on. When at last he tamed the creature he realized that he had nothing to put him in to take him back to Marineland 150 miles away. He had some sea-going trailers, such as Tolstoy used to transport sharks, but they were not big enough. While considering what to do, he tied the sawfish to some offshore pilings and continued fishing. There was, it seemed, only one solution and this required going ashore. Buying the hull of an old boat and riddling it with holes, he towed it out to sea, tied the sawfish in it so that it would not beat itself to pieces, boarded over the top and started off on the long haul to the Studios. A storm overturned the old hull en route and the sawfish, for perhaps the first time in the history of his species, spent an hour upside down while the crew labored to right the boat. To prevent this peculiar accident from recurring, two empty oil drums were fastened to each side of the boat for the remainder of the journey. The sawfish arrived in good condition, but since his saw made him just too long to fit into any of the transfer tanks, a major engineering effort was required to move him from the Inland Waterway landing to the oceanarium. An amphibious vehicle had to be rigged up to carry him across the highway to the foot of the tanks. Here he was hoisted up and lowered into the flume by means of the usual boom, block and tackle.

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