Thursday, June 27, 2013


In 1960, Taylor Allderdice ("Tap") Pryor formed the Makapuʻu Oceanic Center when the Pacific Foundation for Marine Research secured a lease from the State for land near Makapuʻu Point.

His goals were to develop an institution for marine education, marine science and ocean industry. The facility featured an aquarium and park for visitors (Sea Life Park,) a marine research facility (now known as Oceanic Institute (OI)) and a pier and undersea test range for vessels and submersibles (Makai Undersea Test Range (now Makai Ocean Engineering.))

"We envision Hawaiʻi as an ocean-oriented community that can serve as a focal point through which the nation will enter the sea.  Once we establish underwater industry - mining, oil and gas recovery - there will be a need for thousands of people."  (Pryor quoted in Life, October 27, 1967)

"Besides being earth's last frontier, the sea contains most of the world's remaining mineral resources, the largest existing protein resource and probably most of the oil and gas resources left to us.  (Pryor quoted in Life, October 27, 1967)

Tap Pryor was born in 1931; his father Sam Pryor was a Pan American Vice President and friend and supporter of Charles Lindbergh.  The Pryor’s had a home near Hāna where Lindbergh was a frequent guest; Lindbergh later purchased land next to the Pryor's and built a home there, too.

Tap Pryor graduated from Cornell University in 1954, then he joined the US Marine Corps, serving in Parris Island, Quantico, Pensacola and MCAS Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi - he flew helicopters and fixed-wing.  After being discharged as Captain in 1957, he attended graduate school at the University of Hawaiʻi.

Sea Life Park, the popular marine attraction near Makapuʻu Point in East Oʻahu, opened in 1964.  It was one of the early pioneers in marine animal exhibitions.

On the continent, the first large oceanarium was developed as part of the film industry.  Marine Studios opened in 1938, to film movies under water; it later became Marineland of Florida.  (pbs)

The oceanarium-studio was integrated into the Florida tourism industry; in 1949, it began featuring short dolphin performances. In the early-1950s, Marineland spun off Marineland of the Pacific, in Palos Verdes, California.  (pbs)

Then, the Sea Life Park facility brought the oceanarium experience to Hawaiʻi - combining a dolphin research facility with a tourist attraction.

"From Hawaiʻi's Sea Life Park, located at Makapuʻu Point, comes a message teeming with life and youthful vitality. There, Taylor Alderdice Pryor, known as 'Tap,' and his wife, the former Karen Wylie, are staking their all on "the world's largest exhibit of marine life" opening this month.  Now she has a full-time job at Sea Life Park as chief porpoise trainer.  ... She has a staff of three for the porpoises and reports with pride that so far they can 'hula on their tails in the air.'"  (The Miami News, January 1, 1964)

At Sea Life Park, Karen Pryor began using marker-based teaching and training techniques, called 'clicker training.'  Clicker training (also known as magazine training) is a method for training animals that uses positive reinforcement in conjunction with a clicker, or small mechanical noisemaker, to mark the behavior being reinforced (the marine mammal trainers used whistles.)

Karen Pryor was one of the first people to work in a concentrated and applied way to discover what dolphins in captivity could be trained to do. Her writings and lectures taught a generation of marine mammal trainers and researchers around the United States.  (pbs)

In 1965, Pryor was appointed Senator to the Hawaiʻi State Senate. In 1966 (at age 35,) he was named by President Johnson as one of eleven Commissioners to the President's Commission of Marine Science, Marine Engineering and Marine Conservation.

Ultimately called the "Stratton Commission", the group's report 'Our Nation and the Sea' was published in January 1969.  This group was responsible for the formation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1970.

As part of the Makai Undersea Test Range, in 1968, Pryor and others developed 'Aegir,' an undersea habitat, which accommodated six people and was successfully tested at 600-foot depth for two weeks at ambient pressure off Makapuʻu Point.  (whaleresearch-org)

Pryor and others later developed Kumukahi, the first plexiglass submersible also tested at the Makai Range (1968-69.) During that time the Oceanic Institute acquired Star II. They also invented an inexpensive, diver-operated pontoon-platform for launching and recovering submersibles beneath the surface so that they could operate in all weather with only a vessel-of-opportunity towing the submersible and its launcher to and from the dive sites. Because of that, Star II subsequently logged more undersea work time than any submersible anywhere.  (whaleresearch-org)

In 1970, Pryor was named Salesman of the Year for the State of Hawaiʻi in recognition of his promotion of Hawaiʻi and it opportunities for marine science and engineering development.

Following his work on the Stratton Commission, he developed and operated the System Culture Seafood Plantation at Kahuku on Oʻahu, principally the production of table oysters, using his own patented on-land technique for culturing phytoplankton in 32 quarter-acre ponds to feed the oysters on stacked trays in raceways and recycling the water.  (whaleresearch-org)

But, dreams faded and the organization was financially-overextended in efforts to develop undersea mining and deep-sea fish farming and underwent bankruptcy reorganization.

According to a June 25, 1972 The Honolulu Advertiser story, The “TAP” Pryor Story: From Dreams to Debts, Pryor had briefly studied zoology at UH but had no other science credentials. Nevertheless, he soon became a spokesman for oceanography and was even named to the prestigious Stratton Commission and to the state of Hawaiʻi commission on ocean resources. In 1970, Pryor was awarded the Neptune Award of the American Oceanic Organization – an award that was mischaracterized as “the highest honor in oceanography.”  (SOEST)

As part of the bankruptcy reorganization in 1972, Sea Life Park, Makai Pier and Test Range, and Oceanic Institute were spun off into separate entities.

On Monday 30 April 1973 an editorial in The Honolulu Advertiser entitled “Our oceanographic dream” asked the rhetorical question, “Was the great dream of Hawaiʻi as a center for oceanographic research just that – a dream?” (SOEST)

Oceanic Institute is a not-for-profit research and development organization dedicated to marine aquaculture, biotechnology, and coastal resource management. Their mission is to develop and transfer economically responsible technologies to increase aquatic food production while promoting the sustainable use of ocean resources. OI works with community, industry, government and academic partners, and non-governmental organizations to benefit the state, the nation, and the world.  (CTSA)

Later, in 1978, Oceanic Institute formed a cooperative agreement with Tufts University in Massachusetts for teaching and research in marine science, aquaculture, marine biology, marine medicine, and marine nutrition. Later (2003,) the OI facility became associated with Hawaiʻi Pacific University (HPU.)

The image shows the present-day Sea Life Park, Oceanic Institute and Makai Pier.   In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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© 2013 Hoʻokuleana LLC


  1. Looking for Heeia Navy Residence history and a few pictures. We lived there in 1954/54, husband worked at Haiku Raido station. Is the Heeia park on that property now?

    Luanne &Gordon Wulf

  2. I worked directly for Tap as his Adm. Ass't (Secretary) during the late 60s and early 70s. My time with him was thrilling, an honor and always so very enjoyable. People such as Charles Lindgerg, Gregory Bateson & Marlon Brando were close in heart to Tap during this exciting time. NOAA was being formed so we hosted Congressmen in Tap & Karen's gorgeous ocean front home while a bottle nosed propoise swam in the home pool which was designed to be both in his living room and out onto the patio. Tap had a magnificent Windjammer / research vessel called "The Westward" which was moored at the Makai Range Pier. We had the Royal Hawaiian Air Service, a company that managed several small aircraft that flew customers (and friends) from island to island. We had Hotel Hana Ranch at the time on Maui so it was lovely flying to Hana, staying at the hotel, viewing the magnificent water falls and old Hawai'i and its people there and just laying back Maui style. I came to love & adore being close to the Sea Life Park & The Oceanic Foundation marine animals, trainers & scientists. All very exciting and rich. I was absolutely delighted to come across your most welcomed information on Tap and his enterprises. I am 70 now, married and living in Central Florida. As I reflect on my life, truly the highest light of my entire life experience was time spent at Makapuu Point ! ! Thank you again. Linda Fuller