When places are left untouched for years, it can lead to some pretty fascinating discoveries. That's exactly what happened to an Australian YouTuber and urban explorer named Luke McPherson. He and a buddy decided to explore an abandoned wildlife park in 2018 and captured it all on camera for millions of viewers. Little did he know that he would set his eyes on something so incredible. Continue reading to find out what he saw and what happened after he left the park.
Meet Luke McPherson
This story begins with a content creator named Luke McPherson. In 2014, he started a YouTube channel where he posts videos of himself exploring abandoned places around Australia.
McPherson wants to make it clear that his footage isn't simply "urban exploration" (urbex), but he will take time to visit any place that has been deserted or left to rot. A video he posted on November 3, 2018, titled "Abandoned Australian Wildlife park. Decaying, left to rot." is the highest viewed on his channel.
Picking The Place
Luke McPherson has visited abandoned places all across Australia, including a mega $40 million mansion, a farmhouse, and a supermarket. This time he and a friend would be visiting a wildlife park.
He chose Wildlife Wonderland in Bass, Victoria. The park had been shut down since 2012 due to several animal welfare concerns and licensing issues. This meant that all the animals had to be surrendered, leaving the park to sit and rot for years.
Stepping Inside The Park
The guys didn't know what to expect before heading to Wildlife Wonderland because all they knew was that it had been abandoned. The video details McPherson and his friend walking from room to room and looking through things that were left behind.
One thing that was surprising to McPherson was how quiet and empty the place was, considering it was home to dozens of wildlife creatures. Over the course of about a half hour, he didn't see a single animal.
Highlights From The Tour
After finding some objects scattered around the empty park, McPherson concluded that no one had stayed there for a long period of time within the last two or three years.
Some things that caught his eye included a deserted wombat exhibit, a refrigerator stocked with food, a restaurant, and a relatively clean bathroom. McPherson took his time walking in and out of several rooms and filming them exactly as they had been left years prior.
This Room Made Him Sad
McPherson knew he was exploring a wildlife park, so he expected to see various abandoned animal exhibits. While he did see a variety of these, there were other things he never realized he would discover.
There was one room that made him a bit sad and creeped out. Throughout his tour, McPherson realized that people were living at the wildlife park. He came across a child's bedroom with toys scattered all over the floor, a pink and white bed frame, and a red stroller.
Something Stopped Him In His Tracks
For the most part, the rooms generally had the same modern-day appliances and everyday objects scattered on the floor. There was one particular room that wasn't like the rest.
McPherson thought he had found a fun arcade room when he noticed some fun items such as a ball-tossing game and an ice cream sign left sitting in the corner. As he looked to the side, he realized that there was something left that didn't sit right with him.
Getting A Closer Look
Someone who explores abandoned places on a regular basis knows to stay calm when something seems off. McPherson and his friend had done this so far, but they were about to lose their cool.
There was something dark and murky left in the center of this room. As McPherson looked around, he realized that it had once been an exhibit for one of the wildlife park's creatures. He shined the light on his camera toward the center of the room to get a better look.
A Nail-Biting New Discovery
As McPherson shined his light on the greenish, gloomy tank in the middle of the room, he started to see an outline of a figure that was trapped inside. His eyes adjusted, so he could make out the figure.
There were tons of shark teeth on the wall under signs that read "A Mouthful of Teeth" and "The Shark's Eye." It suddenly came into view that the figure stuck inside the tank was indeed a shark.
What Was The Shark Doing There?
McPherson and his friend had found a taxidermized 16.5-foot great white shark floating in a tank filled with green formaldehyde. Some might wonder what this shark was doing there.
Her name was Rosie the Shark and her life was taken off the coast of South Australia in 1998 after she got caught in tuna fishing nets. She was supposed to be sent to the Seal Rocks Sea Life Centre, but was later taken to Wildlife Wonderland.
McPherson's Reaction To Seeing Rosie The Shark
According to Yahoo News, McPherson grew up going to the Wildlife Wonderland park when he was a young boy. Now, in his 30s, he's seeing the park from a whole new perspective.
"Once I got the light behind the tank I was like 'wow that's creepy!' The fumes were so bad you couldn't last longer than a minute in that room, the formaldehyde must have been evaporating. The tank was huge and in bad condition, with a rusting metal frame and smashed panels of glass and trash thrown inside," said McPherson.
The Shark Was In Good Shape
While the formaldehyde does a great job of keeping Rosie the Shark in pristine condition, there's another factor that has kept her in tip-top shape for over 20 years.
After Rosie the Shark passed, she was never gutted. This is rare for a taxidermized animal, but it has left her body in good condition. Although these circumstances helped Rosie the Shark stay preserved, she was not going to stay that way for long.
The Video Went Viral
The videos on McPherson's channel hadn't really gained traction until the one he filmed at Wildlife Wonderland. That video went viral and currently has over 15.6 million views on YouTube.
Since it went viral, it prompted many people to trespass into the abandoned wildlife park to view Rosie the Shark with their own eyes. That didn't turn out well because the trespassers vandalized the property and damaged the shark tank. Rosie the Shark was no longer completely submerged in formaldehyde.
Rosie The Shark's Mistreatment
It was the goal for Rosie the Shark's remains to be stored in a secure way after her death. But after Wildlife Wonderland shut down, there was no plan to keep the taxidermized shark out of harm's way.
The trespassers had pried the roof off of her tank for someone to throw in a broken television and folding chair. As more people started to come, cracks started to appear in the tank's glass because someone had hit it with a hammer and other blunt objects.
It Was No Longer Safe For Rosie The Shark To Stay There
Soon enough, videos were posted online of the horrible condition that Rosie the Shark was kept in. Since the tank's glass was cracked, dangerous formaldehyde fumes started to fill the air and the inside turned a bright, murky lime green color.
This meant that Rosie the Shark was continuously deteriorating. This was devastating for animal preservationists across Australia, so they sprang into action to try and find a better home for her. Thankfully, there was a solution.
Rosie The Shark Gets A New Home
According to ABC News, Wildlife Wonderland was forced to close down in 2012 with all animals being surrendered to RSPCA Australia and the Department of Sustainability and Environment Victoria. This was, at least, all the living animals.
Rosie the Shark was abandoned and the body was almost destroyed because of trespassers vandalizing her tank. Tom Kapitany, the director of Crystal World Exhibition Centre, decided to step in. In 2019, he took ownership of Rosie the Shark and she remains with him at Crystal World Exhibition Centre in Devon Meadows, Australia.
What's Changed For Rosie The Shark
Formaldehyde was once a great preserver of taxidermized animals, but Kapitany and his team at the exhibition center decided it was time for a change. Kapitany sought advice from a shark and taxidermy expert to make sure no further damage was done to Rosie the Shark.
They flushed out all of the formaldehyde from Rosie the Shark and replaced it was a safer alternative called glycerol. It took them a while to get the project done because it cost about $47,000 to fill the tank with over 5,151 gallons of glycerol.
A Silver Lining For Rosie The Shark
With the help of Kapitany and his team at Crystal World Exhibition Centre, Rosie the Shark was able to find a new home. She is still on display as the exhibition workers continue to restore her tank to the best of their abilities.
Those who want to know more about Rosie the Shark's story are in luck. It was reported that a documentary by Flying Fox Productions is in development. It will be about her history, destruction, rescue, restoration, and more.
What Happened To Luke McPherson
The video McPherson shot of the abandoned wildlife park and the discovery of Rosie the Shark was only the beginning for him. He is still making videos where he explores deserted locations, with his most recent being "Abandoned Chinese Function Venue" posted on December 5, 2020.
Before Kapitany and his team at Crystal World Exhibition Centre rescued Rosie the Shark, McPherson made an update video. He talked about being thankful for the views on the viral video, but wanted to share the destruction happening to Rosie the Shark. He also interviewed the park's previous owner to get more insight into what it was like before it shut down.
McPherson Looks Back On The Visit
McPherson never expected his video to go viral, but is glad that people are getting a glimpse into what he caught on camera that day. "I didn't come here for the shark, but was compelled after the park shut down because I came here growing up," he told Yahoo News.
McPherson continued, "I'm definitely surprised at how viral it's gone. I think everyone thinks it's a live shark and that they want to know what happened."
The Public's Response To The Video
Since the video has over 15.6 million views and almost 30,000 comments on YouTube, it's safe to say that people are invested in Rosie the Shark's story and urban exploration. YouTube user Geloxx said, "I find it really respectful that you didn't damage nor take anything..."
YouTube user LambentLark shared, "I appreciate that you took the time and effort to find and share the information. Great video." Social media helped McPherson's video go viral and more people get to learn about Rosie the Shark every day.