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Remember Marineland? Bubbles the whale’s statue may soon rise again

Bubbles, the pilot whale, a beloved part of South Bay marine history, may once again jump for joy atop the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

For more than 30 years, Marineland of the Pacific was a tourist destination on the Peninsula. For years, Bubbles was one of its star attractions. The pilot whale joined killer whales Orky and Corky in providing hours of marine life entertainment for families.

Until the park’s closure in 1987, a 26-foot fiberglass statue of Bubbles marked its entrance.

And, now the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and a group of residents are reinvigorating a push to find a better home for Bubbles, who has been housed for more than three decades in the city maintenance yard.

At its Aug. 3 Rancho Palos Verdes City Council meeting, the panel affirmed a 2017 decision to install Bubbles as part an entry marque just north of the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. The Council also directed staff to reissue a request for proposals to design the marquee and to work with the community members to raise funds to restore the statue.

“I’m excited to see that there’s some momentum and interest in our community to privately fund the restoration of Bubbles,” said Mayor Eric Alegria.

Marineland, now the location of Terranea Resort, was opened in 1954. It closed after tumultuous years of decreasing attendance, multiple owners and financial hardships. But for many, Marineland still spurs lasting childhood memories.

Councilmember David Bradley said he grew up on the Peninsula with memories of Bubbles in front of Marineland.

“I know Bubbles is probably a little long in the tooth,” said Bradley. “She was a fiberglass model that was probably intended for about a 20-25 year useful life.”

But, said Bradley, even though Bubbles would need significant restoration work, he would “would love to have that nod back to the Rancho Palos Verdes and Peninsula of the 50s and 60s.”

Bubbles was captured off the California coast in the 1960s. She performed in her own stadium until Marineland closed. The pilot whale was then moved to SeaWorld in San Diego, according to an Associated Press article in June 2016. Bubbles later died at SeaWorld when she was in her mid-50s.

A move to find a home for the Bubbles statue began in 2014 when resident Robert Craig and his daughter came across the dilapidated statue while walking their dog.

In 2017, the City Council approved the PVIC as the best location for the statue. According to a City staff report, two proposals for design and construction were submitted with estimated costs of $225,000 to $285,000 or between $150,000 to $180,000. The estimates were never presented or approved by City Council, according to the staff report, and did not include the cost of restoring Bubbles.

An estimate of approximately $20,000, which included sandblasting, bodywork, painting and polish, to restore the stature was submitted by a restoration company in 2016.

Jon Sansom said on Wednesday he and a group of residents have formed a committee to explore fundraising options. Those will will probably get jumpstarted when the City releases the new RFPs for work on the statue, he said.

Sansom said there were some efforts to restore the statue in 2019, but those were halted by the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sansom, who said he visited Marineland often when he was a child, said he immediately knew it was Bubbles in the City’s maintenance yard. He was attending a Fourth of July celebration and had parked there.

“It was something inside me that just wanted to preserve it, I felt like Indiana Jones finding some treasure,” Sansom said.



Sansom said it’s important restoration begins soon, as Bubbles is in pretty bad shape.

“I don’t think another year or so it would be in any condition, even to save,” Sansom said. “It’s going to need considerable restoration and repair.”

And, Sansom noted, as PVIC is a pilot whale census area, the location is fitting since the era of captive whale breeding is over thanks to activists.

“It’s more about honoring the oceans and whales,” Sansom said.

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Source: Orange County Register

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