Remember When Perth Had An Atlantis-Themed Marine Park?
Welcome to our new series “Remember When”, which as the title suggests is basically just us digging back through Perth’s colourful history to look back on some of the weird and wonderful moments in this city’s relatively short history.
So far we’ve taken a deep dive into Scarborough’s infamous rock ‘n roll Snake Pit, and Wanneroo’s equally infamous lion safari park… but what about everyone’s favourite defunct marine theme park, Atlantis?
Many of us have visited the now-crumbling and graffitied statue of King Neptune that still stands at Two Rocks, however Atlantis Marine Park was originally a symbol of WA’s glittering, ’80s potential.
The park was originally planned as part of Alan Bond’s ambitious Yanchep Sun City project – a sun-drenched holiday destination and satellite city to support a booming economy, and with it a booming population and tourism industry.
Opening on Boxing Day, 1981, the park was a partnership between Bond and the Japan-based Tokyu Corporation. Six months prior to opening, seven local bottlenose dolphins were captured and trained to perform in live shows – six of which would be there until the park’s eventual closure in 1990.
As well as dolphins, the park was also home to a bale of turtles and performing seals. In true whacky ’80s fashion, performances included impressive trapeze artistry, a safari-inspired show, the elaborate “Legend of the Incas”, a Wild West show and even a Three Musketeers-inspired performance. One move in the Roman chariot-inspired performance, the “Triple Roman” – in which three performers would ride four dolphins in unison – was a world first.
Of course, there was lots of interactive fun for the whole family to get involved with – whether it was a visit to the gift shop or Aloha restaurant, a paddleboat ride or splash in the waterpark, or one of the family-friendly shows – below you’ll see the Cowardly Lion from one of the Atlantis performances of The Wizard of Oz.
Other whacky features of the park included a truly unique clock, built around the “Lake of Lost Legends”, with each hour marked by a huge limestone sculpture of a celebrity’s head – including Charles and Di, Charlie Chaplin, the Beatles, Elvis and John Wayne. Delightfully, an audio track relating to each figure played when the minute hand ticked past. For many years, these limestone sculptures could be found at the now-closed Yanchep Club Capricorn resort.
The park’s closure in 1990 was necessitated by financial difficulty, alongside changing legislation that would require larger dolphin enclosures to be built following the birth of three calves.
The closure meant that new homes had to be found for the nine dolphins, and a release project was planned with the help of marine scientists – including Kelly Waples, PhD, who wrote a detailed account of the process (a great read!). Three of the nine dolphins were eventually re-homed at UnderWater World (now AQWA) after failing to successfully live in the wild.