Created in 1957 by Dr. Harold von Braunhut, Sea Monkeys were widely advertised in comic books, along with such other marvels as Mexican jumping beans, x-ray glasses, a frontier cabin (big enough for 2 to 3 children, for just $1.00), the Charles Atlas program and kryptonite rocks.
Comic books were banned in my house when I was a kid, so I had to steal glances at these amazing possibilities while visiting my more fortunate friends, whose parents set no limits on what they could read.
Despite the temptations of P.F. Flyers and hypnotizing coins, it was the Sea Monkeys that appealed to me the most. Small and quiet, I was sure they would be the perfect pets in our busy household.
Sadly, I was never able to purchase the Sea Monkey kit, so I did not experience the wonder of this “bowlful of happiness so eager to please, they can even be trained.”
Over time, I had various pets – a foundling budgie, various fish, cats and dogs – and then children and grandchildren to amuse and entertain me.
Still, my heart longed for a Sea Monkey. Fortunately, I shared this dream with a friend last winter, who knew that a Sea Monkey kit would be the perfect gift for a feminist turning 65.
The promises are as extravagant today as they were in the 1950s and 1960s:
“You are about to begin a NEW amazing hobby that is so fantastic, it STAGGERS THE IMAGINATION. . . .Yes, singlehandedly, you will raise up the world’s only living, breathing INSTANT-PETS.
Apparently, I have joined fellow hobbyists throughout the world, although I have not been able to find any sign of an online fan club.
My instruction manual tells me that I will be able to bring my sea monkeys to life and then “watch them grow, breed and form families.” If I take good care of them, they will reward me with “endless hours of pleasure and enjoyment.”
“Unlike many make-believe toys, pet Sea-Monkeys are REALLY ALIVE and are always eager to put on a show. . . Sea-Monkeys are real TIME-TRAVELERS asleep in biological time-capsules for their strange journey into the future!”
There’s a dark side, too
Harold von Braunhut, who held more than 190 patents and made millions of dollars from Sea-Monkeys and other creations, was a known racist, who supported white supremacy groups, attended Aryan Nation gatherings and bought guns for the Ku Klux Klan, something I didn’t know until I already had my Sea-Monkey kit.
Some of the language in the material I received as part of my kit is creepily suggestive of anti-choice rhetoric. For instance:
“While inside their tiny eggs – yet unborn – they burn the “spark of life” for many YEARS!”
Now that I look at the advertising through the somewhat jaded eyes of a 65-year-old, I am pretty sure there may be some exaggerations. My “ocean zoo” is a small plastic container. I don’t think that my Sea-Monkeys will look like the exotic creatures featured on the packaging. (Mind you, in small print, the wrapper does admit that the illustrations are “fanciful.”)
Nonetheless, I am determined to see my commitment to these little creatures through.
They have come to life!
I have followed the instructions precisely to ensure a successful birth of my baby Sea-Monkeys. On Day One, I filled the plastic container with water and added the envelope of water purifier. I let this sit for 24 hours before adding the envelope of Instant Life Eggs five days ago.
The instructions told me I might see babies in as little as three days, but up to seven days was more likely. Apparently, those with thinner egg shells hatch more quickly. I have been stirring the water in the “tank” daily, as instructed, to help the babies breathe. In one more day, I am to feed them, using the special, provided spoon to ensure I don’t overfeed the little fellows.
When I began writing this blog, about an hour ago, there was nary a Sea-Monkey to be seen in the ocean zoo. However, I kid you not, when I walked over to the tank to take a picture of the empty sea nursery, what should I behold but baby Sea-Monkeys galore.
Now, they are very small and really only visible through the three convenient magnifying observation spots on the plastic case, but if you look very carefully at this photo, you will be able to see a murky blurry blotch that is, I promise you, a genuine, trademarked Sea-Monkey.
I cannot even begin to imagine the hours of fun and entertainment that lie ahead for me as I train my new pets and watch them reproduce for generations to come.