Splash was different in one way from those others. "He was epileptic," said Hargrove, "so we treated him with phenobarbital." The orca also was treated for ulcers, and for having high stress levels, he said. "He was always sick, I never saw him off medication."
Few questioned at the time whether it was safe to swim with whales who had seizures, "but we did," Hargrove said. The orca's ill health wasn't the only issue that the killer whale struggled with. "Splash had full-on aggression" that began when the male orca became sexually mature, Hargrove said, and the trainers were wary of him.
Once, while backstage getting ready to perform with the killer whale, Hargrove said he was sitting with his legs in the water when Splash, "sank down deep, rolled sideways and opened his mouth on my leg."
The trainer calmly put his hand in the water and, "asked for a hand target" -- a standard maneuver, a trainer will reach out their hand and an orca will press its snout, or rostrum, against it. When Splash complied, Hargrove said he closed the whale's mouth and signalled for him to leave. "I wasn't swimming with him," Hargrove said, "because his mind was already thinking aggression."