Move to Sea World

In December, 1986, Sea World’s corporate owner, the U.S. publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (Sea World is now owned by the Blackstone investment group) purchased Marineland of the Pacific and the surrounding lands for a rumoured $23 million. Then in January, 1987, after more than 17 years at Marineland, Orky and Corky were removed to Sea World in San Diego. For the very first time they would be among whales who were not members of the A5 pod. The facility at Sea World was a much larger, far busier and more hectic environment for these two whales who had spent most their lives alone together in a much smaller tank. At Sea World, performances were much more “showy” , with trainers in the water riding on the backs of the whales and other complicated tricks.

A year and a half after the move to San Diego, in September 1988, Orky died. Before he died, Orky fathered two calves with Icelandic females. He was also involved in a tragic accident in which a trainer was seriously injured. This incident eventually led to a major shake up in the Sea World organization. It was believed that sexual tension had compounded a miscue during a show and had caused Orky to land on top of the trainer. Training practices were criticized. Several staff members lost their jobs, trainers were forbidden to get into the pools during shows and allowed to interact with the whales only from the sidelines. However, audience reaction to the more subdued shows was negative, and eventually the former flashy format was returned. Then, during the summer of 1988, Orky began to lose weight. In two months he lost more than 4000 lbs and died.

Now Corky was left totally without any family in the tank, except for the calves Orky had fathered. Corky became Sea World’s main performer, “Shamu”.

Over the following years, Corky has had some difficulties socially. The lowest point came with a tragic incident that occurred between Corky and an Icelandic orca named Kandu V, who was Orkid’s mother. There had been a lot of tension, on and off, between the two females. Then, in August, 1989, just as their show was starting, Kandu rushed out from the back pool and charged at Corky. In the attack Kandu fractured her jaw, a bone fragment severed an artery, and she bled to death. No one had ever seen or heard of an orca attacking another orca before. Orkid was just one year old. In an odd twist of fate Corky became Orkid’s surrogate mother.

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