I recently finished the first draft of a book set in Perth which spans three decades from the 1960s to 1980s. Many iconic locations form the back drop of the book. How many do you remember?
Atlantis Marine Park was built in 1981 as part of an ambitious plan to turn a tiny town at the northern end of Perth’s sprawling metropolis into a standalone satellite city. Established in Two Rocks, 60 km north of Perth, Atlantis became a must-see destination for the people of Perth – for a short while at least.
The image of an enormous carved head of King Neptune smiling down on the park became part of a collective childhood, surrounded by many more limestone sculptures of dolphins, mythical creatures and even celebrity heads (Di and Charles, Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles and more).
Six months before the park opened, six local bottlenose dolphins were captured and trained to perform together. Images of the dolphins performing in unison and jumping to touch a ball suspended high over the pool, drew crowds in, but ironically it was partially the dolphins’ fault that the park failed.
The birth of three babies and a tightening in regulations meant that the pools built to house the dolphins were too small. The owners were already facing financial issues due to smaller crowds and so the decision was made to close the park in 1990. This often comes as a surprise to many people who grew up in Perth at the time – the fact that Atlantis was only open for 10 years.
Many of the limestone sculptures were transported off site to the Club Capricorn Resort (which itself closed in 2015), while the dolphins began a long rehabilitation project to ready them for a return to the wild. It was only partially successful. Five dolphins were returned to the waters off the coast of Yanchep, to be seen happily frolicking for a number of years. Sadly, one dolphin died and three were unable to be rehabilitated. They were transferred to AQWA (then known as Underwater World) which had opened in 1988 in the Hillarys Marina.
KIng Neptune, 2012 Tor Lindstrand (CC BY-SA 2.0)The park itself was left abandoned. It became overgrown and a place for vandals until recently, when a group of volunteers cleaned up the site around King Neptune, where it is now open to curious visitors and dog walkers.