In which I invoke vicarious bragging rights. You totally would too. - Tactical Ninja
Jan. 22nd, 2013
09:32 am - In which I invoke vicarious bragging rights. You totally would too.
Pretzel Class last night was completely different from the first one I went to, in that this one was focused mainly on making our hips flexible. My hips, apparently, are not very flexible. Owieowieowie! I can do quite a lot of pressups though, so it seems - so that's something.
Well, actually, 4 pictures of my Dad doing things other people's Dads probably don't do, and this one:
Proof that trying to pose staunchly for photographs is not a new phenomenon. This was taken at the North of England spearfishing contest in 1963, which according to the caption on the back, was held in Cornwall. Cornwall? That's um.. nowhere near the north of England. In fact, if you know your English geography, you'll know that you can't go much further south than Cornwall. I can only assume that there are no fish off the North East coast - or that going in the water there would kill you or something.
Anyway, I reckon that if they weren't wearing wetsuits and holding spears, that's make a pretty good indie band album cover. Maybe even with the wetsuits... anyway, Dad's on the right. He was 40 in that picture.
Skip forward 10 years and now we're in New Zealand. This is Dad at 50, releasing an albatross at Mt Maunganui, where he was head trainer at the Marineland:
This was a young albatross. Little known fact - even though albatrosses are capable of intercontinental flight, they do get tired, and more so when they are just starting out like this one was. It was sitting exhausted in the water off Tauranga, unable to take off. It was picked up by a fishing boat and brought to Dad, who basically fed it and gave it rest until it recovered, then let it go again. It was imaginatively named Alby, and we weren't allowed to do anything except watch Dad feed it because it was a wild animal and terrified of us.
We were allowed to give these ones fish - though not using this method:
This is a common fur seal like the ones you see all over the place on the coast round here. Dad worked with them and they'd put on a daily show where they'd balance balls on their noses, clap, do all the cliched seal things, and he'd feed them like this. Normal feeding involved a bucket of fish, which we would throw one by one into their enclosure and they'd do acrobatics catching them. I'm pretty sure my 4 year old throwing made them more agile than they would normally be, eh?
Dad liked getting things to jump out of the water:
This is Simon, a common dolphin. Marineland only had one dolphin, which is not how dolphins are supposed to live. Dad tried to make up for it by playing with Simon a lot and keeping him as entertained as possible, and of course there was the inevitable daily show of acrobatics.
Then there was this character:
Nelson was a leopard seal and we weren't allowed anywhere near him. You know how if you keep a bull or a ram on its own, it gets crankier as it gets older? Same with leopard seals, apparently. Dad could manage him but nobody else had anything to do with him, and as you can see, even Dad wasn't putting his face anywhere near that mouth. The writing on the back of the photo says "1/3 still in water." Um, yeah, Nelson was big.
 I just recalled, Nelson came to Marineland through having been hit by a boat propellor. If you look closely you can see a white scar running down his jaw, and he'd also lost an eye - which is why he was called Nelson.
There was also a chimpanzee called Snoopy, who was Dad's favourite. If I can find some photos of him, I'll post them too. We weren't exactly allowed to play with Snoopy, but he was like a little person so was often out of his cage and wandering around with Dad, so we got to interact with him some. He had a show that involved the sort of things that you'd call exploitation these days - dressing himself, balancing on the handrail round the dolphin pool while Dad held his hand (chimps hate water btw), pretending to play cards, smoking. Yes, smoking. Remember, back then folks didn't really know how bad it is for you. It was for show too, it wasn't as if Snoopy was fagging it up out the back every five minutes.
This was all towards the end of Dad's career with animals. Shortly after these pictures were taken, Marineland came under new management, and the new manager was all about cost cutting. Unfortunately for the animals, this meant things like nutrition supplements (animals in captivity don't get the same varied diet that they do in the wild) and worm pills. Yes, sea mammals get internal parasites too. Simon died of them. I know this because when Dad autopsied him, I helped. Then Snoopy died because they stopped heating his cage in winter and he got pneumonia. Dad had some kind of altercation with the manager, and the next thing we knew he was working in a plywood factory down the road. At five I had no idea of the details, but later on we found out that Dad had basically gone head-to-head with the guy over the welfare of the animals, and refused to train or put on shows with them until their needs were met. The guy had refused, and Dad was given the choice to enable the neglect of the animals or to take a hike. He took the hike.
Marineland stumbled on for another three years until the Marine Mammal Protection Act caused it to peter out. It was replaced by Leisure Island, a water-based theme park. Dad's heart had gone out of the work, and he never worked with animals professionally again. He didn't ever stop training things to do tricks though, much to the frustration of the ladies at the pony club when my pony got bored standing around .... *ahem*
So when Dad wrote 'dolphin trainer' in his passport, he wasn't kidding. Somewhere, we have a home movie of him brushing the teeth of an orca. This is in England, before our move to NZ. Mum and Dad had all the old movies put on DVD in the 90s. If I can find them, I'll dig them out and put them up.
In other news, only 2 days to go before our trip to Australia! I am excited.