SeaWorld Orlando (SWO) Discussion Thread

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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby Electerik » Wed Nov 17, 2010 8:38 am

Obviously total speculation, but I would imagine that if trainers were ever going back into the water with the orcas, they'd just keep Believe around.

Although, I guess it's possible that trainers could be going back in using equipment or some other safety precaution that would force a total show change.

Personally, I'd like to see them back in the water, regardless.

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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby jedimaster1227 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:56 am

SeaWorld Orlando has sent us some B-Roll footage from this year's Christmas Celebration, including the new Sea of Trees experience.

SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration Features All-New Holiday Festivities

New to this year’s Christmas Celebration is the Sea of Trees. Guests will discover 75 massive trees, each sparkling, lighted and choreographed to classic holiday tunes, making a dramatic display around SeaWorld’s center lake.

Also new is The Christmas Market, located on the park’s Bayside Pathway. Here guests can shop for one-of-a-kind gifts and dine on scrumptious holiday delights.

Returning Favorites included on the broll:
  • Shamu Stadium once again brightens the night with dazzling lights and glowing candles, while Christmas carols abound and Shamu splashes to celebrate the holiday season. It’s the magnificent holiday show, Shamu Christmas … Miracles. Winter Wonderland on Ice, is a spectacular show where Christmas comes to life with towering water fountains, magnificent fireworks and some of the most talented ice skaters in the world.
  • Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas, is a Christmas comedy with everyone’s favorite sea lions Clyde and Seamore and a few mischievous otters and a jolly walrus or two, just for good measure.

The best way to experience SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration with family and friends is with an Annual Pass. Now with the purchase of an Annual Pass, guests receive three months free to enjoy all the park’s benefits, such as amazing animal encounters, thrill rides and world-class shows. For more information about SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration or to purchase an annual pass, visit SeaWorldOrlando.com.



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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby jedimaster1227 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:48 pm

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/os-dine-with-shamu-20110113,0,3770148.story

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is preparing to restart a killer-whale show that has been suspended since the death of a trainer nearly a year ago.

"Dine with Shamu," a limited admission performance in which guests eat a buffet meal while watching trainers work with one of SeaWorld's orcas, will restart Feb. 26 at SeaWorld San Antonio and sometime this spring the company's two other U.S. marine parks, SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego.

The show had been in limbo since Feb. 24 of last year, when SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau, who had just concluded a 'Dine' session with a six-ton orca named Tilikum, was grabbed by the animal, pulled into the water and killed. Some guests were still in the viewing area when it happened.

SeaWorld continues to battle fallout from Brancheau's death, including a court fight with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which fined the company $75,000 and recommended trainers never again be allowed unprotected contact with Tilikum.

SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs said the company is in the midst of making changes to its show areas to prepare for new performances. It is installing glass in the guest dining and viewing area and a new surface around the edge of the pool, among other changes.

Jacobs said Tilikum will not be used in the show, at least initially.

"It is possible that at some point in the future he'll be part of DWS, but not when it opens this spring," Jacobs said.

Launched in 2002, Dine with Shamu had become a lucrative venture for SeaWorld. The company charges about $40 per adult for the experience.

SeaWorld said it has begun accepting reservations for Dine performances in San Antonio. Bookings have not yet started in Orlando or San Diego.
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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby aviadigit » Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:24 pm

Does anyone know if a Quick Queue pass also gives you priority access to shows at SeaWorld Orlando? Can't find anything about it on their website...

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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby jedimaster1227 » Thu Feb 03, 2011 8:32 am

http://www.seaworldparksblog.com/One_Ocean

We love our fans and wanted you to be some of the first to hear about the exciting new killer whale show opening at our three SeaWorld parks this spring and summer.

“One Ocean” is scheduled to premiere at SeaWorld Orlando at the end of April, SeaWorld San Diego on Memorial Day weekend and SeaWorld San Antonio in June. The show is exactly what you love about our parks – thrilling entertainment that educates and inspires you to celebrate, connect and care for the one world and one ocean we share. Check out the video below to get the scoop from Julie Scardina, our curator of animal training.



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http://www.seaworldparksblog.com/one-ocean-facebook-qa-animal-ambassador-julie-scardina

Today, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Animal Ambassador, Julie Scardina logged onto the SeaWorld Facebook page for a Q&A session with the fans. Check out the questions and answers below:

Q: Jo G: Hi Julie will "One Ocean" be set to music? Coming over from the UK in October and can't wait to see the new show :) And will it just be children that get chosen to interact?
A: Julie Scardina: Hey Jo! You'll love the new inspirational music. We'll have the flexibility to introduce Shamu to all ages.

Q. Blake F: I can't tell from the picture, are those the moving screens? Or will they just stay put?
A. Julie Scardina: Just like in Believe we'll have the spectacular screens choreographed to music.

Q. Beverly A: When in April will it open in Orlando?
A. Julie Scardina: Late April!

Q. Marilyn B: Julie, in what ways will the audience be able to interact with the whales during the show?
A. Julie Scardina: Be careful you might get WET!

Q. Paige G: What kinds of new behaviors will be featured in the show? How will the whales interact with the water? And will the show be educational in the sense that guests will learn about the whales like in the original Shamu Show?
A. Julie Scardina: The show will be more fun and whale personality driven, but you'll still see spectacular aerials and multiple whales interacting. These days it's easy to look up facts, but to be inspired is harder. Shamu will inspire people to care for his and our One Ocean.

Q. Beverly T: Will it include the trainers in the water interacting with the whales?
A. Julie Scardina: Not at this time but we are hoping and working towards that for the future.

Q. Blake F: Also, will any more pictures/models of the set be released?
A. Julie Scardina: Stay tuned!

Q. Jeannette G: Hey Julie... (Hoping this is how we ask our questions) Believe was a show that really touched my heart and many others as well. Should we expect the same from this new show? Sea World has always had incredible shows. And as an expecting mom to be i cant wait to bring my new family in time to share the experience of SeaWorld!
A. Julie Scardina: Absolutely! In fact, this show will inspire you to connect with and care for our One Ocean.

Q. Lisa G: Hi Julie, this question is from a friend. He wants to know if there is a possibility of waterworks still coming into this show in the future, and also what the new wetsuits look like? :)
A. Julie Scardina: The wetsuits are cool. Check back later for marketing released photos.

Q. Lisa G: I was wondering if Tilikum will be in this new show? Thank You!!
A. Julie Scardina: We are working towards that and hoping to add him when the time is right.

Q. Elena J: Hi Julie!! How are you today? My question is how will this new show be different from the other orca show? Thank you for all you have done.
A. Julie Scardina: Thank you! This show will be fun. You'll see more whale personality along with more audience interaction facilitated by the trainers.

Q. Stephanie C: Julie, how does some attain a job like yours?
A. Julie Scardina: Love of animals, hard work, long hours and a fishy smell! But boy is it worth it. Seriously, a focus on animal behavior, swimming skills, public speaking and passion will get you far.

Q. Jessica C: Hi Julie, it's not a question about the new show (which sounds awesome by the way) but how is little Makaio getting on?
Have an awesome day all the way from the UK :) xx
A. Julie Scardina: Makaio is doing great. Already showing us some spunky behavior!

Q. Marilyn B: Julie, will there be any physical barriers between whale and trainer during the new show?
A. Julie Scardina: We'll still have our protocols as we do now.

Q. Joseph G: Will the new show be built around a beautiful musical score like Believe was?
A. Julie Scardina: Great music, beautiful scores and inspiring lyrics.

Q. John M: Hi Julie! I was wondering, what will One Ocean have, that the other shows in the past haven't had?
A. Julie Scardina: A focus on whale personality and how they interact and learn from each other.

Q. Angela B: Hi Julie!! Such a big fan of yours!! Something which id like to know is is there a set date yet as to when the internal review will be complete. im guessing its not going to be long, so many people ask about trainers getting back in the water, it will get one step closer to that goal. Also, are there plans for a DVD and soundtrack release with the new show?? Oh and it would be great if you could give the SW press people a push into making a Shamu Rocks soundtrack!! :) Thank u so much for your time, i know your a busy gal hanging out with jay leno all the time hehe xxxxx
A. Julie Scardina: The process is still on going as we implement procedures, facilities and equipment changes. Not sure about the DVD yet, check back later.

Q. Marilyn B: One more question...will this show include a "one on one" moment with a female trainer and whale like Believe did during Something Far Greater?
A. Julie Scardina: We are working towards more whales in more segments for a more fun and personality driven segment.

Q. Marà a G: We went to see the Holiday show last December, most of the whales in the show were small (babies). Will this be the case in the new show?
A. Julie Scardina: We do have lots of babies in Orlando. And we love it! But our adult females definitely want to get out there as much as the babies do.

Q. Emily G: Hi Julie! I was wondering what kind of educational topics will be covered. Will it talk about threats to orcas? Will the show discuss orca social structure? To me, that's the most interesting thing about resident orcas, and I think the public should learn about it so they have a newfound respect for cetaceans! :)
A. Julie Scardina: We aim to inspire as there are so many ways to look up facts from your computer or hand held device, but until you are moved to care you might not take action. Our goal is to inspire.

Q. Rose M: Hello Ms.Scardina, I’m just curious about the show- from what is said, multi sensory. Do you mean Like Blue horizons or something entirely different?
A. Julie Scardina: You'll definitely hear, see, feel and if you get soaked, maybe even taste the experience of the new show, but certainly you will be moved.

Q. Heleen W: Hi Julie, I was wandering if you are going to move whales from one park to the other just to have a pod in Orlando with bigger whales. It has been done before so I was wandering if there are any plans. Thank you
A. Julie Scardina: No plans for moves at this time. Right now everyone seems to be in a good place.

Q. Joffrey V: Everyone is talking about the new show, so I wanted two questions. Will the trainers return to doing waterworks, and will the new show be something in the style of Believe again?
A. Julie Scardina: Relationships are multi-dimensional. Just like with humans there might be some aspects that are limited and other aspects that are enhanced. Right now we are making sure we are fulfilling all the whales needs through creativity, enrichment, toys, play and tactile.

Q. Kelsey H: Just one question...will there be a new "Shamu" whale? Or will it be the same one?
A. Julie Scardina: Shamu is representative of all whales!

Q. Misty K: is the reason u all changed the show because the trainers can’t get n the water with the whales???
A. Julie Scardina: Believe has run for 5 years. It was time to change but this show has been specifically designed to show off all of Shamu's amazing characteristics.

Q. Jennifer L: Hi Julie, How do you feel about Tilikum not being used in the shows for the past 11 months, as well as no plans to use him yet? Do you think that is fair to keep him in isolation and without purpose there?
A. Julie Scardina: Tilikum is still part of our killer whale family who receives the same amount of time and interaction as he always has. We utilize more brushes, tactile from water sprays and of course he still enjoys his interaction with other whales. He has been learning some new behaviors which we hope to use in the show at some point.

Q. Jeni-Trouble B: Julie, how have the whales reacted to being trained with new music, new choreography etc... Are they keen to learn a new routine or is it confusing for them after 5 years of the same show/music??
A. Julie Scardina: All the whales love to learn and look forward to new visuals, new music and new behavior. They watch the screen!

Q. Meghan L: Hi Julie what is the one ocean? Is that the name of the new show?
A. Julie Scardina: That's the name of our new show as it focuses on how we are all connected and all need to do our part for a healthy ocean.

Q. Callum W: Hi Julie :) I was just wondering will one ocean be more educational than Believe? A little bit like the Shamu adventure? :) Thanks :)
A. Julie Scardina: This show will focus on our connectedness with the ocean and how we can all make a difference, but it will be high energy, fun and inspirational.

Q. Alan Turner: ‎"One Ocean", one connection to a world were it once was impossible to believe could happen, in SeaWorld I trust,
A. Julie Scardina: Thanks for the support Alan!

Q. Emily Y: Dear Julie! I really hope you can answer my questions! (I'm in school right now just got time to ask my question!) If the trainers will get back in the water with the whales, will the new set be altered to allow trainers in the water with the whales? As well, I know Tili (my favourite whale) won't be returning to shows as of yet, but will he be return in the shows before it hits 2 years of him not performing? Thank you so much!! You are a truly inspiring person! ♥
A. Julie Scardina: Thank you Emily! Good questions. If and when that time comes, which we hope we will, we will make any necessary changes. Tilikum has been working sessions in the show pool to prepare him to return to the show when the time is right.

Julie was beyond impressed with the questions and ended her Q & A by asking all her fans to join her on Twitter. “Thanks for all the great questions. You sent WAY MORE than I expected! I've got to go now but find me on Twitter @JulieScardina.”


http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/tourism/os-seaworld-killer-whale-show-20110203,0,5206150.story

A new killer-whale show that SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will open this spring in its three U.S. marine parks will not include any in-water interaction between trainers and whales.

Dubbed "One Ocean," the performance will debut in late April at SeaWorld Orlando, on Memorial Day weekend at SeaWorld San Diego and in June at SeaWorld San Antonio, SeaWorld was to announce today. It will replace the nearly 5-year-old "Believe" show as the showcase attraction in the company's marine parks.

Plans for the new show have been deeply influenced by the Feb. 24, 2010, death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was battered and drowned by a company killer whale, and by the months-long safety review that has followed the tragedy.

The most significant adjustment: The new show has been designed for trainers to work exclusively from the stage, instead of in the water with the killer whales. Instead of "rocket hops" — the iconic maneuver in which a whale propels a trainer out of the water — "One Ocean" will feature highlights such as multiple orcas performing in unison and maneuvering amid giant fountains.

SeaWorld hasn't let its trainers swim with the animals since Brancheau's death. It has said it will reinstitute such "water work" only if it can make sufficient safety improvements.

"We are now staying out of the water. We don't know when or how that's going to change. So we said, 'Let's design this one to facilitate that and go in that direction,' " said Julie Scardina, SeaWorld Parks' curator of animal training. "This show was designed to create the interconnectedness with the whales without having to be in the water."

"One Ocean" will also have a more explicit conservation theme than "Believe" did, with images and messages that "revolve around the ocean, the environment, what people can do to make a difference," Scardina said.

She said the new show will emphasize the individual personalities of each of the roughly two-dozen killer whales in SeaWorld's corporate collection. During the show, for instance, trainers will have some guests interact with the animals through the glass surrounding the show pool. Trainers will also have more latitude about what behaviors to use than they did during the tightly choreographed "Believe."

"With the last show, we probably focused a little bit more on the fact that these are amazing performers. Now, we want to introduce them to the audience," Scardina said. "We want to bring them [guests] down to the glass and get close, and let people see that the older whales actually do teach the younger whales, that when they interact together they have fun."

The new themes have been crafted following months of heavy criticism from animal-rights activists who say marine parks provide no genuine educational benefit and that keeping the world's largest marine predator in captivity is inhumane. Critics contend that Brancheau's death — and a similar death in December 2009 of an orca trainer at a Canary Islands marine park — were the result of killer whales enduring extreme stress in captive environments, a conclusion that SeaWorld vehemently disputes.

To prepare for "One Ocean," SeaWorld's three Shamu Stadium orca complexes will undergo significant construction, as crews install fountains, paint new color schemes and, in some of the parks, replace oversized video screens. Scardina said the physical improvements will be comparable to what SeaWorld did to prepare for "Believe," on which the company reportedly spent more than $10 million.

Scardina said SeaWorld is also incorporating new safety features developed as part of the internal review launched following the Brancheau tragedy. But she declined to discuss specific measures, citing the ongoing legal fight in which SeaWorld is contesting a citation issued last year by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A hearing before an administrative judge with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Review Commission is scheduled for April 25.

The new killer-whale shows are among 10 new attractions SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will add at its 10 U.S. theme and water parks this year. SeaWorld says the construction spree, which is expected to approach nearly $200 million in 2011, is the largest single-year capital investment in company history.
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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby BeemerBoy » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:14 am

SeaWorld hasn't let its trainers swim with the animals since Brancheau's death. It has said it will reinstitute such "water work" only if it can make sufficient safety improvements.

Like what? Making the whales sign contracts promising they won't do, um, whale things....like occasionally hurting trainers? :?r

Anyway, the new show sounds good, and I really like that logo.
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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby The SETGO Guys » Thu Feb 03, 2011 7:06 pm

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Opens 10 New Attractions
This Year from Coast to Coast

Orlando, Fla. (February 3, 2011) – SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment – the parent company of 10 parks including SeaWorld and Busch Gardens – will unveil 10 new attractions across the country this year, the largest single-year capital investment in the company’s history.

Our guests expect thrilling, educational and inspiring attractions at our parks,” said Jim Atchison, President and Chief Executive Officer. “This year delivers our best and biggest line-up yet, from a new killer whale show that inspires guests to make a difference in our world, to an innovative, state-of-the-art coaster combined with an educational animal habitat. No one connects people to animals, the world – and to one another – like we do.”

Orlando, Fla.; San Diego, Calif. and San Antonio, Texas

All three SeaWorld parks: “One Ocean”
Opening at all three SeaWorld parks, “One Ocean” features majestic killer whales as ambassadors of the sea, and the ocean as the center of our natural world. The show educates and connects guests with these remarkable animals as it immerses them in the vivid colors and sensations of the underwater world. At the core of the show is the unifying message that both animals and humans are part of one world, with one ocean, and its future is in our hands to cherish and protect.



One Ocean” is scheduled to premiere at SeaWorld Orlando at the end of April, SeaWorld San Diego on Memorial Day weekend and SeaWorld San Antonio in June.


San Diego, Calif.


SeaWorld San Diego: Turtle Reef
In addition to the new killer whale show “One Ocean,” SeaWorld San Diego also debuts this summer Turtle Reef – an attraction that will allow guests to get an up-close look at 60 threatened or endangered sea turtles, as well as learn more about the threats sea turtles face in the wild. The attraction also will feature thousands of tropical fish, and a new ride that takes passengers on an exciting rescue mission of their own. The focal point of Turtle Reef is a nearly 300,000-gallon aquarium with a massive underwater viewing gallery.


San Antonio, Texas


SeaWorld San Antonio: Sesame Street Bay of Play
In addition to the new killer whale show “One Ocean,” this spring SeaWorld San Antonio will open Sesame Street Bay of Play, an all-new attraction for families featuring Elmo, Big Bird and all their friends. Sesame Street Bay of Play will include three acres of exciting rides, shows and play areas and will be home to a colorful carousel with all the friends of Sesame Street. Other kid-sized rides include Big Bird’s Spinning Reef, a delightfully playful Ferris wheel; Elmo’s Dolphin Dive, a vertical drop ride; and Abby Cadabby’s Rocking Wave, a ride that rocks forwards, backwards and sideways. Kids can also beat the summer heat at Little Bird’s Splash which features 22 water elements such as bubblers, geysers, jets and dumping buckets. At Big Bird’s 1-2-3 Smile with Me, everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends will greet, hug and take photos, and make memories. The Happenings stage area features musical performances with Elmo, Abby Caddaby, Zoe and Cookie Monster.




Orlando, Fla.

SeaWorld Orlando: “One Ocean,” see description
Discovery Cove: The Grand Reef
In June, Discovery Cove opens The Grand Reef. This all-new area features multiple levels of exploration, from shallow waters to deeper swimming adventures; from white sandy beaches and hammocks swaying in the breeze, to snorkeling among canyons inspired by reefs from oceans around the world. Guests can step into tranquil, shallow water to discover a below-the-surface world teeming with sea life, or they can snorkel in deeper water as thousands of exotic fish and graceful rays swim around them. Guests looking for an even more exhilarating adventure can take part in The Grand Reef’s innovative experience, SeaVenture, an underwater walking tour using dive helmets.

Tampa, Fla.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Cheetah Hunt and Cheetah Run
Opening this summer, Cheetah Hunt is a one-of-a-kind, multiple launch-point coaster that uses the force of repelling magnets to launch riders from 0 to 60 mph in a matter of seconds – not once, but three times. Cheetah Hunt sets a new distance record for a Busch Gardens’ roller coasters at 4,429 feet of track.

Cheetah Run will set a new standard for bringing nature and humans together. This expansive new habitat will give visitors the opportunity to get closer to cheetahs than ever before with elevated, glass-paneled viewing areas. They can also witness the world’s fastest land animal in action during daily sprints conducted by Busch Gardens’ trainers.


Williamsburg, Va.


Busch Gardens Williamsburg: Mäch Tower
This spring, guests will see the massive spire known as Mäch Tower. The tallest ride in the park, Mäch Tower lifts up to 30 riders nearly 200 feet into the air.

After rotating at the top of the tower and getting a few seconds to take in the view, riders drop at breath-taking speed. State-of-the-art special effects include enhanced audio.


Water Country USA: Vanish Point
Inspired by the point on a wave where water and gravity form a perfect partnership, Vanish Point supplies two wicked-wet ways to drop out of sight. The crest of this 75-foot tower challenges guests with two wave paths. They can step into a skybox and take a plunge when the floor drops out beneath their feet, or they can get horizontal on a 300-foot speed slide that drops them straight down as soon as they enter. Either way, it’s pure liquid adrenaline.

Langhorne, Pa. near Philadelphia

Sesame Place: “Neighborhood Street Party” and Elmo’s Cloud Chaser
This spring, the “Neighborhood Street Party” parade will allow guests to experience an energetic neighborhood block party on iconic Sesame Street with all of their favorite friends, including: Elmo, Count Von Count, Bert & Ernie, Abby Cadabby, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Rosita, Big Bird and Telly. The parade will feature familiar contemporary songs, as well as Sesame Street favorites that are sure to get everyone joining in the fun. The park’s newest ride, Elmo’s Cloud Chaser, invites families to join Elmo up into the sky where the clouds are as close as their imagination.

To stay current on the latest attraction news, visit the parks’ blogs including: www.seaworldparksblog.com , www.buschgardenstampablog.com , www.buschgardensvablog.com , and www.sesameplaceblog.com .

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a portfolio company of The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX), operates 10 parks across the U.S. including SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio; Busch Gardens parks in Tampa, Fla. and Williamsburg, Va.; Discovery Cove and Aquatica in Orlando; Sesame Place near Philadelphia, Pa.; and water parks Adventure Island in Tampa and Water Country USA in Williamsburg. The 10 parks play host to 23 million guests each year and employ 20,000 people nationwide.

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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby jedimaster1227 » Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:46 pm

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-seaworld-trainers-water-20110223,0,1956999.story

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is preparing to put trainers back in the water with its killer whales for the first time since a trainer was battered and drowned by the company's largest orca one year ago today.

SeaWorld told the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday that trainers in its three U.S. marine parks will begin limited "water work" with whales within the next few months, with the interactions initially restricted to small medical pools equipped with false-bottom floors that can be lifted out of the water.

The company said it also will spend tens of millions of dollars in coming months on safety upgrades at its killer-whale facilities in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio — from custom-designed, fast-rising pool floors in its larger show venues to underwater vehicles that could be used to distract an out-of-control killer whale with pulsing lights and whale vocalizations.

Company officials said they intend to proceed slowly and have not decided when — or even if— trainers might once again go back into the water with killer whales during public shows. SeaWorld trainers have not been permitted in the water with the whales since veteran SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by a 6-ton orca named Tilikum on Feb. 24, 2010.

"We've never been in a situation where we've been out of the water a year with our whales. I would like to be able to tell you that I think our whales are going to be very comfortable doing this," Chuck Tompkins, corporate curator of zoological operations for SeaWorld Parks, said Wednesday. "But that's the reason we're taking our time. We're taking nothing for granted."

SeaWorld must strike a delicate balance as it moves forward. The company is battling federal regulators who have accused it of recklessly placing trainers in danger, and it faces a potential wrongful-death lawsuit from Brancheau's widowed husband. But it also wants to eventually resume the iconic, in-water performances that have helped build SeaWorld Parks into a $1.2 billion-a-year theme-park giant and are also, officials say, an important part of building relationships between whales and trainers.

"We do feel that that's the best way to not only showcase those animals but to care for the animals, as well," said Julie Scardina, also a corporate curator of zoological operations for SeaWorld Parks. "It's something that we've been successful doing throughout our history. We know it inspires people, and we know that it allows us the best access to the whales, as well."

Preparations to return to water work are already well under way. Trainers, for instance, have in recent weeks been going through seminars on topics such as whale aggression.

The killer whales themselves, meanwhile, are gradually being re-trained through a process SeaWorld calls "water desensitization training." The whales are taught to swim around the perimeters of their pools while ignoring progressively greater distractions — from unusual objects to noises being made in a neighboring tank.

That training will soon progress to desensitizing the animals to the presence of a trainer in the water. Tompkins said that will happen "within the next couple of months," though only in the medical pools.

"Water 'desense' is a very methodical process," Tompkins said. "You don't immediately jump in the water and go, 'What are you going to do with me?' You literally go to the other side of the pool and you put your foot in the water and you make sure the whale doesn't pay attention to the fact that there's a foot in the water."

SeaWorld said it has not decided when training might progress beyond the medical pools. The company says its timetable is not dependent on its ongoing legal battle with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration; hearings before an administrative law judge are scheduled to begin April 25.

SeaWorld said it eventually plans to put all of its killer whales through the desensitization training save one — Tilikum, the large whale that killed Brancheau. The adult male is considered especially dangerous because he has been involved in three deaths over 20 years and is by far the biggest orca in SeaWorld's collection.

Tilikum, whom Tompkins said had been put through "some very basic sessions of water desense" before Brancheau's death, will undergo some further limited work. But trainers will not get into the water with him at all, even in the medical pool.

Trainers have, however, begun working with Tilikum on behaviors to be used in a new killer-whale show that will debut in SeaWorld's marine parks this spring. That show, at least for the foreseeable future, will be conducted entirely by trainers working from the stage. SeaWorld has kept Tilikum out of performances since Brancheau's death.

Even as it moves forward with water work, SeaWorld said it is in the midst of making sweeping safety improvements at its orca complexes. The most ambitious project: Rising pool floors that can lift killer whales out of the water in perhaps less than a minute's time.

SeaWorld said it has designed the new floors in conjunction with Oceaneering International Inc., a Houston-based deep-sea engineering company that works primarily with offshore oil- and gas-drilling companies. The floors are designed to rise much faster than the cabled lift stations in SeaWorld's medical pools, which take approximately 60 seconds to rise from 8-foot-deep water.

"Upon initiation, it would immediately release and rise to the surface, lifting multiple killer whales, and then obviously could support multiple individuals," said John Linn, SeaWorld Parks' senior director of engineering services.

Linn said the first floor will be installed by June in the 28-foot-deep "Dine with Shamu" pool in Orlando — the same pool that Brancheau was in when she was killed. Once SeaWorld has tested the mechanism and ironed out any kinks, it intends to install similar floors in all of the company's orca pools, including the largest performance pools, which are nearly 40 foot deep.

Although SeaWorld would not discuss specific costs, it said it expects to spend "tens of millions" of dollars installing the floors — putting the project's price tag at least on par with, and potentially more expensive than, a major new theme-park ride.

SeaWorld said it has also worked with Oceaneering to develop what is essentially a remote-controlled underwater vehicle that could be deployed to distract a whale in an emergency. The device, which SeaWorld will begin testing in about a month, will be able to swim patterns, float to the surface, flash with a strobe light, vibrate and emit sounds, including, potentially, whale vocalizations.

In addition, SeaWorld said it intends to eventually outfit its trainers with emergency air supplies, initially designed for the U.S. military, that will feature automated breathing regulators and provide two-to-five minutes of air for a trainer trapped under water. And the company says designers are researching rapidly expanding mechanisms that trainers could use in an attempt to quickly pry open a whale's jaws in an emergency.

SeaWorld said it has also overhauled oversight of its animal-training department by assigning both Tompkins and Scardina to focus solely on training in its 10 theme parks and water parks. The company eliminated a similar corporate-level training position several years ago, opting instead to fold responsibility for animal training in with the rest of its zoological disciplines.

Those changes are on top of other safety improvements SeaWorld has made in recent months, including installing removable guardrails around stage ledges and "net boxes" that can more more quickly deploy in an emergency.
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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby SoCalCoasters » Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:51 pm

It will be interesting to see how this turns out, seeing as "One Ocean" seems to stress that the whales would be one their own in the water, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out...
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Re: SeaWorld Orlando Discussion Thread

Postby Snowboard246 » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:12 pm

We shall see how it turns out, I honestly think things will be ok because I believe the attack was one of those rarities that happens when trainers interact with wild animals that has happened on other occasions with bears, tigers, etc.
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