When Marine Life Oceanarium opened in August 1956 at Joseph T. Jones Park in the Gulfport harbor, it did not have its familiar metal aqua dome over the dolphin tanks and staging areas for the sea lions, seals and birds. That would come later. |
When so many people came to see the wonders of the sea, a tank three times as large as the original was added. From the beginning, Marine Life combined entertainment with marine studies.
Damage from Hurricane Camille in 1969 closed the oceanarium for 22 months. All but two dolphins and two seals were lost when Camille brought more than six feet of water above the tanks.
When Marine Life reopened, it offered more than before, including the shade of the aqua canopies. Reef tanks held sawfish and sharks and other sea life. Ten dolphins and six seals were added to the mix at that time, and the tourist attraction continued to grow and had a promising 21st century future.
No announcements have been made on Marine Life's future in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina destruction.
"We are like so many other people on the Coast, working with our insurance company and trying to get property cleared up and trying to figure out the future," said Marine Life president David Lion.
After Katrina, the dolphins, all of which survived, according to Lion, were sent to Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. The sea lions, birds and other animals that survived are being cared for in marine parks and zoos in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
- KAT BERGERON