Sealand of the Pacific
|Date closed||November 1992|
|Location||Victoria, British Columbia, Canada|
Sealand of the Pacific was a public aquarium in South Oak Bay at The Oak Bay Marina, near the city of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. It housed a number of orcas: Haida, Nootka, and Tilikum. In 1991, all three were involved in an incident in which a trainer, Keltie Byrne, was killed. The aquarium subsequently closed and sold its orcas to SeaWorld.
The aquarium opened in 1969, housing an orca named Haida which had been captured in 1968. Shortly afterward, the aquarium decided to capture a mate for him, taking a partial albino named Chimo. She died in 1972, a little over 2 years after her capture; the disease which caused her albinism, Chédiak–Higashi syndrome, made her very susceptible to illness. Haida, her mate, mourned her death, and remained alone for years. Eventually, Sealand captured a female whale named Nootka II for his mate. Nootka II, however, died after 9 months. His third mate, Nootka III, was also short-lived. By the time of the death of his third mate, Haida displayed no interest in them.
In 1977, Dr. Murray Newman, founding director of the aquarium, got a call from Campbell River, B.C., resident William Davis, who claimed he was feeding a sick baby killer whale by hand in the wild. Newman then called Dr Michael Bigg, head of Marine Mammal Research at the Pacific Biological Station in Naniamo, B.C. Bigg, in turn, called Sealand and Bob Wright, who took Angus Mathews, Dr. Alan Hoey, and Bigg by float plane to Menzies Bay to investigate the claim. They discovered the story was true and that the baby killer whale was suffering from a bullet wound. Sealand, with permission from Bigg and Davis, decided to rescue the baby whale and take her back to Victoria for emergency care.
Miracle became a popular attraction but was kept in a separate pen from Haida. Several years later, her companion in the pen, a seal named Shadow, drowned in the nets forming the pen. Sealand diver Larry McInerney stated in the documentary Who Killed Miracle? that she had drowned by becoming trapped between the double-net system at the aquarium. McInerney also noted, which was corroborated by Alexandra Morton in the film, that Miracle had learned that by damaging the nets, divers would come into pen and she could play with the divers. Miracle's play had become aggressive and was a safety problem for the divers, preventing proper maintenance of the pens. Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, a killer whale expert, determined that Miracle was a southern resident killer whale, which were known to play rough with other sea mammals in the wild. These factors combined to cause the whale's death.
As anti-captivity protests began to put pressure on aquariums, Sealand agreed to release Haida, but the animal died a few days before its scheduled release in October 1982, with no evidence of foul play. His release had been part for the aquarium to acquire new whales. Many people were outraged by the plan of capturing more whales and staged a protest at the supposed capture site. Sealand soon obtained three whales captured from Iceland.
The three new orcas, Tilikum, Nootka IV, and Haida II, never had good dynamics together; the male, Tilikum, was often bullied and chased into the medical pen by the two females.
1991 accident and closure
On 20 February 1991, Keltie Byrne, a 21-year-old marine biology student and part-time orca trainer, slipped and fell into the whale pool after a show. Tilikum, Nootka IV, and Haida II dragged and repeatedly submerged her until she drowned, despite other trainers' efforts to rescue her. The poor relations between the whales, unfamiliarity with trainers in the water, and the pregnancy of at least one of the females (Haida II) were cited as possible causes.
Sealand of the Pacific closed shortly after the incident, in November 1992. All three of the whales were sold to SeaWorld in the United States. Tilikum and Nootka IV went to SeaWorld Orlando, while Haida II and her baby Kyuquot went to SeaWorld San Antonio. Kyuquot remains in captivity at SeaWorld. Haida II died in August 2001, while Nootka IV died in 1994. Tilikum died in January 2017.
Orcas kept at Sealand
- Chimo: An albino orca. Captured in March 1970 and died in 1972.
- Knootka/Nootka: An orca captured alongside Chimo in March 1970. Lived at Sealand until the twenty-fifth of that month, when she was moved to the Japanese Deer Park in California. From 1971 to 1972 Knootka was residing at a Texan park named "Seven Seas Texas." She would go on to live at Marineland of Canada until 1986, and SeaWorld San Diego, where she spent the final four years of her life. She died on March 13, 1990.
- Nootka II
- Nootka III
- Miracle: Died January 1982.
- Haida II: Died on August 1, 2001. She was pregnant at the time of the 1991 drowning of Keltie Byrne; she gave birth to a son name Kyuquot on December 14, 1991.
- Nootka IV: Died on September 13, 1994, at SeaWorld Orlando.*
- Tilikum: Died on January 6, 2017, at SeaWorld Orlando.
- Kyuquot: The first offspring of Tilikum, mothered by Haida II. Currently lives at SeaWorld San Antonio.
- Nootka IV's calf: The calf was born on February 4, 1992, and died March 10, 1992.
- "Oak Bay Marine Group timeline". Archived from the original on 2014-12-16.
- frontline: a whale of a business: viewer discussion
- "Dr. Newman Founding Director of Vancouver Aquarium Came for a Visit | Beaty Biodiversity Museum". beatymuseum.ubc.ca. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
- "Michael Bigg", Wikipedia, 2019-12-18, retrieved 2020-01-11
- "Who Killed Miracle?". The Green Channel. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
- PBS: A whale of a business excerpts from chapter 7 of “The Performing Orca – Why the show must stop” by Erich Hoyt, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Bath U.K. 1992.
- Helm, Denise, Tilikum incident still haunts Wright, Oak Bay News 04 Mar 2010
- Sealand opens its doors for first show since drowning, The Vancouver Sun 04 Mar 1991
- Trainer dragged to death by whales, Toronto Star, Feb 21, 1991