Early Struggles to Maintain Captive Dolphins at the New York Public Aquarium


  • Samantha Muka Stevens Institute of Technology, USA


This piece examines the earliest attempts to ship and maintain captive dolphins at the New York Aquarium between 1908 and 1928. Similar to zoos, aquariums sought to find charismatic exhibits to attract visitors. However, these early attempts proved fatal to the dolphins and showed how difficult it was to develop tank craft around marine species. Early aquariums tinkered with essential elements of the captive environment to try to maintain these exhibits, but eventually gave up when the costs became too great.

Author Biography

Samantha Muka, Stevens Institute of Technology, USA

Samantha Muka is a historian and sociologist of marine science. Her current work examines the development of tank craft and its impact on the creation and circulation of knowledge about the sea. Her work has been published in both academic and popular outlets, including The Atlantic, Slate, and American Scientist. Her book, Oceans under Glass: Knowing the Sea Through Aquarium Building, 1850–Present will be published by The University of Chicago Press in November 2022.

Photograph of dolphin performance.