Psychotic, Depressed, or Just a Whale? Studying Whales in Captivity at Marineland of the Pacific, 1954-1967

  • Isobel Griffin


Prior to the onset of large-scale marine mammal captivity, marine biologists had limited access to whales and dolphins. Scientists were often forced to rely on inadequate wild observations, study whale carcasses from whaling ships or factories, collect stranded specimens, or hunt their own cetaceans. Opening in 1954, Marineland of the Pacific revolutionized the marine mammalogy field by providing unprecedented opportunities for scientists to closely observe, study, and interact with live whales. In addition to studying breathing rates, swimming speeds, and diving capabilities, scientists at Marineland also made advances in understanding echolocation, social structure, and emotional intelligence in cetaceans. Through examinations of scientific studies, changes in animal husbandry practices, and popular publications, this paper will show that the connection between oceanariums and marine research has been largely overlooked in historical scholarship, but is critical to understanding the transformation in the mid-twentieth century relationship between humans and cetaceans.