A female scalloped hammerhead shark died at Ocean Park last week. When the park opened its gates, on January 10, 1977 – 40 years ago this week – the death toll from infection and disease already numbered 38 dolphins, four whales and five harbour seals, according to the South China Morning Post at the time.
The park had been a long time coming, with delays attributed variously to bad weather, landslides, fire and cable car testing. Community leaders were up in arms over the entrance price.
The idea for a marine centre was first mentioned in the Post on March 4, 1959. “A Plan for a super aquarium called an ‘oceanarium’ for Hongkong was revealed yesterday by Mr J. D. Bromhall, Chief Scientific Officer of the University of Hongkong’s Fisheries Research Unit. [...] He described the oceanarium by telling about one of the only two others in existence,” ran the report. “This is Marine Studios in Florida which is a kind of aquarium where the species of fish are not separated and where conditions are as near as possible like those at the bottom of the sea.”
It was August 16, 1967, by the time the Post reported the government offer of a free land grant for the project, which a study had concluded would cost about HK$4.28 million, at Brick Hill, Aberdeen. Funding calls were batted between the public and private sectors until, on May 4, 1971, the Post announced: “Jockey Club to build oceanarium”.
When Murray MacLehose eventually opened the park, it had taken five years to build, on a 170-acre site, at a cost of HK$150 million. In a decidedly downbeat inauguration speech, the then governor said, “It is my hope that in the course of time […] the headland will gradually be developed to provide room for its enjoyment by larger numbers who may not always wish or be able to pay to see all the exhibits at one time.”