“A shark is stranded in an amusement park…” That is not the opening for a joke, although it sounds like it could be. Nor is it a harrowing rescue story. Rosie the Great White Shark was stranded at an amusement park, but not until after she was already dead. Sadly, Rosie was deliberately killed in 1998. This was a mercy killing. The Lukin family decided to end her life after she was entangled in a fishing net during a family tuna fishing trip in South Australia. Different organizations competed for possession of Rosie’s body, since it was deemed to be of scientific value. Wildlife Wonderland purchased Rosie from the Lukin family the same year she was killed.
The Great White Shark’s body was stored in a frozen tank and transported to Wildlife Wonderland by freight truck…almost. The truck was intercepted en route by the South Australian government. A female swimmer had recently disappeared. The government wanted to conduct an autopsy on Rosie, to see if the shark was the woman’s cause of death. The autopsy revealed the shark’s stomach was empty. After the body was filled with dacron—a material intended to help the body keep its shape by acting as a substitute for the shark’s natural body tissue— it was preserved in a custom designed tank of formaldehyde and dacron and shipped to Wildlife Wonderland. However, this was not Rosie’s final resting place. In 2012, Wildlife Wonderland was closed due to allegations of operating without proper licensing. The wildlife park was ordered to surrender all live animals to either RSPCA Australia or The Department of Sustainability and Environment Victoria. As Rosie was not a live animal, she was left to decay in the abandoned park.
In 2018, urban explorer, Luke McPherson found Rosie. [An urban explorer is someone who enjoys discovering constructed environments that have been closed to the public.] He shared a Youtube video about his visit to Wildlife Wonderland, prominently featuring the shark, whom he called. Rosie. The Youtube video received eleven million views. Though McPherson was respectful towards Rosie’s exhibit, not everyone attracted to the sight by his post followed his example. According to Don Kransky, a freelance writer for VICE News who visited Rosie, one visitor pried the roof off of the shark’s tank, leaving subsequent visitors in danger of inhaling formaldehyde fumes, which can cause formaldehyde poisoning. [Symptoms of formaldehyde poisoning include: a burning sensation in the esophagus and stomach, eye and skin irritation, headaches, and respiratory problems.] One visitor threw a television into the tank, and one visitor cracked the glass of the tank several times by repeatedly striking it with a hammer.
Rosie attracted well wishers as well as vandals. In 2019, after her fans campaigned on various social media outlets, Rosie was transported to the Crystal World and Prehistoric Journeys Park in Devon Meadows, Australia. Shane McAlister, a Crystal World employee who guarded and transported the two ton Rosie, tells The Daily Mail he hopes to restore her himself.
All photos by Garry Moore (https://garrymoorephotography.com/)