Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Marineland of Florida
Marineland of Florida ("Marineland"), one of Florida's first theme parks, is billed as "the world's first oceanarium". Today it is no longer an operating theme park but still functions as a research and education institution.
Marineland was first conceived by W. Douglas Burden, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, and Ilia Tolstoy as an oceanarium that could be used to film marine life. A site was selected on the Atlantic Ocean south of St. Augustine, eventually known as the town of Marineland. Financing and construction presented challenges as Marineland was the first attempt at capturing and sustaining sea creatures. These challenges were overcome and on June 23, 1938, "Marine Studios" (the name "Marineland of Florida" would later be adopted) began operations with its main attraction as a bottlenose dolphin. Unexpectedly, over 20,000 tourists clogged Highway A1A to visit the new attraction.
Marineland was very fashionable in its early days, prompting writers Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, John Dos Passos, and Ernest Hemingway to visit Moby Dick's Bar located there. The park's facilities were very popular with tourists and also used for numerous movies, including Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and Revenge of the Creature (1955). Trained dolphins became an additional attraction by the 1960s as Marineland became Florida's undisputed top theme park, attracting over 300,000 visitors per year. The opening of Walt Disney World Resort in 1971 began the park's decline as tourist traffic migrated to the newer, more modern parks.
The park's decline became terminal in the 1990s. Dwindling tourist revenue resulted in few improvements and neglected maintenance. Hurricanes in 1999 forced the park to close for two months. In 2003 all of the park buildings west of Highway A1A were demolished leaving only the original structures along the Atlantic Ocean. In 2004, the park closed completely for renovations.
On January 30, 1974, the University of Florida opened the Whitney Laboratory adjacent to Marineland. This laboratory's purpose was the experimental study of marine animals. This development has foreshadowed the park's future, as today Marineland is considered a valuable research and education institution. Future plans for the park include a heavy emphasis on education and ecological tourism.
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