The place where you could view piranhas, alligators and squid in Sunderland

Sea World at Seaburn which opened 46 years ago this month.
Sea World at Seaburn which opened 46 years ago this month.
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Piranhas, alligators, squid and penguins. There was a time when you could see them all during a visit to Sunderland.

Sea World at Seaburn opened for the first time 46 years ago this month.

The advert for Sea World.

The advert for Sea World.

The many attractions at the two-acre site were revealed in two pages of coverage in the Sunderland Echo and a report at the time told how it brought “the world of sea creatures to the doorstep of Wearsiders for the first time.”

In fact, the centre had been due to open a week earlier than it did but the North East’s penchant for bad weather put paid to that plan.

Sea World was built on a site at the Golf Centre and its facilities included a 750-seat dolphinarium.

There were, eventually after a delay for the poor weather, six dolphins at Sea World and they had been flown in from Florida in the USA.

It’s a wow, it’s a must. A wonderful day for the children, for the whole family

Sunderland Echo report, 1973

The Echo report at the time said: “Dolphins are only part of the fascinating array of marine animals.”

The new venue was first revealed in a civic opening which was attended by Sunderland’s deputy mayor, Coun George Parks, and other council officials.

And there was also a private preview for more than 400 local children. Were you one of them and what do you remember of it?

Two days after that, the public got its first glimpse of Sea World where admission was 30 pence - or free to children aged under two.

But before all that, it seems, lots of people were keen to get their own first look before the doors opened.

With 24 hours to go to the opening, a crowd of spectators gathered outside Sea World and they watched everything from bulldozers to workers laying the paths.

They watched as holes in the ground were filled in, concrete was mixed and signs were painted in bright colours.

Workmen were due to work around the clock for another day as the countdown to the official launch began.

Their tasks included installing special filter equipment and steam boilers. Their purpose was to help bring the temperature in the dolphin pool to the required 70 degrees F.

On the eve of the unveiling, proprietor Patrick Collins told the Echo: “We will be working through tonight again to be ready on time for the opening.”

But one of the new ‘residents’ made its own news that month. A pelican escaped from Sea World and went wandering around Wearside.

Sightings of it were reported in a Sunderland cemetery but when a search party was sent out, it could not be seen.

Mr Collins said at the time: “Whenever it feels hungry, it just pops out to sea for a few fish.”

Meanwhile, an advert in the Sunderland Echo described some of the attractions at the ‘New Sea World And Dolphin Marina’.

“It’s a wow, it’s a must,” said the advert. “A wonderful day for the children, for the whole family.”

Did you pay a visit and what are your memories of it?

Sea World was opening seven days a week from ‘10am to dusk’ and the advert encouraged people to ‘join in the fun of the happy world of marine life’.

They were invited to ‘make friends with the inhabitants of Pelican Island’.

The list of attractions was huge, according to the newspaper report at the time.

Penguins, two eight-foot-long alligators from the sub-tropical Mississippi swamplands, two Californian sea lions, pelicans, ducks and geese.

There were piranha fish in one aquarium, and sea horses, squid, a giant eel in others.

There were plans to bring in polar bears from Russia and to have a Pets Corner with Shetland ponies, a llama, donkey, and goats.

Mr Collins told of the aim to ‘let children have close contact with animals’.

What are your memories of a trip to Sea World and where you there for the opening?

Did you work there and what do you recall of being employed at the venue?

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