By some stroke of luck, just prior to leaving for our trip, we found out that the whale that Mike’s father caught off the coast of Iceland 35 years ago and had in their park for two years, was now residing at SeaWorld San Diego. I shamelessly contacted the marine mammal curators in the park and tried to get access behind the scenes to see Ulysses, the second largest killer whale in captivity. He is a large male Orca and when Mike was young his father chartered a Icelandic Vessel to catch several young whales. They caught three and kept one. The whale was at the Rio Leon Safari Park in Spain for two years before it outgrew their pool and was sold to the Barcelona Zoo. From there the family lost track of the whale. We got a great up close and personal meet and greet with Ulysses. We had lunch with the park’s marine mammal curator and after the orca show met three of Ulysses trainers. They let the kids feed the whale, throw him ice chips and they learned a few hand signals. The favorite was the blow hole farting sound! The poor whale was forced to do that numerous times. As you can imagine, that never gets old to a nine year old.
The first 15 years of Ulysses life were spent in the company of dolphins so his vocal patterns are unique to other whales in captivity. When he first moved to San Diego the female whales didn’t have much to do with him and he was difficult to train. Typical Bradford, but otherwise he seems as well adjusted and as happy as a captive whale can be and he has 9 other whales to hang with. He will have his first calf in December and apparently the chicks finally dig him!