Gyrosphere – Isla Nublar (S/F)

The Gyrosphere was a safari-type tourist attraction in the Jurassic World de-extinction theme park which operated on Isla Nublar, Costa Rica from 2005 until 2015. The attraction consisted of a large number of gyrospheres, spherical vehicles designed by Masrani Global Corporation‘s subsidiary companies between 2002 and 2004, which would bring tourists along predetermined pathways through the island’s central valley area (referred to as Gyrosphere Valley). Manual control of the gyrospheres was also possible, but not generally encouraged. This ride would permit visitors to the park to view de-extinct organisms up close, with the vehicle’s transparent exterior allowing a wider range of visibility than traditional methods.

The Gyrosphere attraction was mostly completed by the late summer of 2004, and presumably was operational when Jurassic World opened on May 30, 2005. At the time, it included at least five dinosaur species, and by 2014 it included thirty de-extinct animals and plants (with a thirty-first, Ankylosaurus, planned to be incorporated soon). The ride closed at midday on December 18 of 2015 due to a serious security incident, and as the park itself was closed down permanently following said incident, the ride never reopened.

Name

The Gyrosphere attraction was named after the unique vehicles, gyrospheres, which were used within its boundaries. The vehicles themselves were named for their shape and for the gyroscopic technology used to keep their interiors upright while the exterior rotated. The area in which the attraction was located was referred to as Gyrosphere Valley, but on the official park map at the Jurassic World website, the attraction as a whole is simply referred to as “Gyrosphere.”

Location

Gyrosphere Valley was a part of Isla Nublar’s central valley area, located in Sector 4 adjacent to (and overlapping with) Triceratops Territory and Gallimimus Valley. The valley was located just east of the island’s western coastline, with a monorail station located east of the Gyrosphere Loading Station.

Description

The main part of the Gyrosphere attraction was Gyrosphere Valley itself, a section of Isla Nublar’s large central valley nestled between the Western Ridge and Jungle River. The attraction overlapped with the Gallimimus Valley attraction to the east and with Triceratops Territory to the north; it is unknown if it incorporated the West Plains area, which some dinosaurs were not permitted to access. The three main attractions of Sector 4 were split into individual areas sometime after the summer of 2004, before which they were all considered a part of Gyrosphere Valley. The eastern part of the valley was generally flatter than the hilly western region, which included some ravines and small mountains as it neared the Western Ridge and the coast. A huge watering hole was located in the valley’s south, providing fresh water to the valley’s animals.

Electric fences separated the northern and southern boundaries of Gyrosphere Valley from the other sections of the island, the restricted area to the north and Jurassic World visitor facilities to the south. Every half-mile along the perimeter fence was a stunner cache, holding nonlethal weapons that could be used by staff members for self-defense. Gates marked with numbers indicating zone sector were located periodically along the fences; the exit code for the southern gates was 5428 as of the attraction’s construction. Some of the gates were programmed to open automatically when a gyrosphere approached. The code to open the gates from outside the valley was different than the exit code, and was more closely guarded by park staff.

Jurassic_World_Gyrosphere
Gyrosphere in use

The gyrospheres themselves were two-seat vehicles consisting of an interior gyroscopic passenger cabin encased in a roughly 12-foot-diameter aluminum oxynitride sphere which rotated to propel the vehicle forward or backward. Circular sliding doors on the sides of the gyrospheres permitted access, and a joystick could be used to control the vehicle when in manual mode. A video screen was situated in the middle of the front, which was used to display safety information as well as educate visitors on the dinosaurs they were encountering. There were over thirty gyrospheres in total, though not all would be on the field at once. Each gyrosphere was linked to the park’s RFID tracking system, which meant that the gyrospheres could sense how close any given dinosaur was. If a vehicle approached too closely to a dinosaur, it would automatically roll back to a safe distance. Likewise, the park’s invisible fences would in theory keep dinosaurs far enough away from gyrospheres to avoid danger to visitors, but these were necessarily supplemented by other safety measures.

In the valley’s eastern border was the Loading Station, from which gyrospheres would depart; the queue area overlooked the valley, and a roof shielded the platform itself from the sun. Visitors would board here as gyrospheres were automatically dispensed out from one of five gyrostations. When resting in a gyrostation, the gyrospheres would recharge and undergo maintenance and cleaning. Suitable gyrospheres would be automatically rolled out as needed to the Loading Station. These gyrostations were not built yet as of the summer of 2004; at that point in time, the gyrospheres were simply parked on a bluff south of the valley fence and guarded by ACU.

There was a 42″ height requirement to board. Once out on the field, a gyrosphere would run along a predetermined path, though the computer system would modify the path to give dinosaurs their space and avoid terrain hazards. A standard tour would move north from the Loading Station, then west, before moving south through the valley and turning east to return to the station. However, the gyrospheres did have a manual driving mode which allowed visitors to move through the valley area independent of the preprogrammed route. Typically, gyrospheres would drive at a maximum of five miles per hour, though in manual driving mode they could be pressed to move at speeds comparable to a human sprint. Control was achieved using a joystick, while a red button could be used to activate the sphere’s equivalent of a handbrake. The blue button opened the doors. A video screen was used to relay safety information to the users, as well as information about the animals they could see in the valley.

Safety features in the gyrospheres included an alarm that would sound if a rider exited the vehicle during a tour, automatically locking doors, seat belts, and the aforementioned RFID-linked auto-rollback protocol. The main safety feature, of course, was the exterior shell of the vehicle, which was made of aluminum oxynitride glass and almost watertight. The glass was allegedly capable of withstanding the force of a 50-caliber bullet, though in actual practice it has been punctured with close-range fire. While dinosaurs were capable of damaging the glass, it could generally hold up without shattering under most attacks, preserving the safety of tourists inside. If a gyrosphere was incapacitated for any reason, it was designed to keep the visitors safe from harm until ACU or other security personnel could arrive to provide help. To further ensure visitor safety, visitors who were pregnant or prone to motion sickness were discouraged from riding the gyrospheres due to the quick and sharp turns involved with the ride.

History
2002-2004: Construction and setup

Despite the gyrosphere’s futuristic appearance, its attraction was actually one of the first to be built for Jurassic World. It was designed between 2002 and 2003, with the first operational gyrospheres having been constructed by the beginning of March 2004. Masrani Global Corporation patented the vehicles by 2004, with the patent accidentally leaking to the public by the summer of that year; there was much skepticism that the leak was real, likely due to the gyrosphere’s unconventional design.

On March 1, 2004, InGen’s ACU division test-drove the gyrospheres in the central valley. The test drives were meant to teach the gyrospheres’ automated driving systems how to identify and avoid hazards and adapt to varying terrain. Test drives continued throughout 2004, and during the summer ACU was assisted by a group of interns from the Bright Minds program. Issues did occur in incorporating the gyrospheres into the valley; some dinosaurs, such as a young Brachiosaurus named Pearl, would play with empty gyrospheres. While no incidents involving in-use gyrospheres were reported, the risk of a dinosaur using a boarded gyrosphere as a plaything were considered quite serious by ACU. During that summer, a group of interns devised a behavioral program using painted gyrospheres to redirect Pearl’s play instincts, allowing her to safely remain in the valley when gyrospheres were in use.

2005-2015: Operational years

By the time the park opened on May 30, 2005, the Gyrosphere attraction housed at least two adult and two juvenile Brachiosaurus, sixteen Triceratops including at least one juvenile, several Gallimimus, and more than twelve Parasaurolophus. Over time, the species roster changed; by 2014, Brachiosaurus had been removed from the valley with plans to open a new attraction for them in 2018. However, they had been replaced with another sauropod species, Apatosaurus. Two sections of the valley were designated as Triceratops Territory in the north and Gallimimus Valley in the east, with Gyrosphere Valley remaining in the south, but gyrospheres were capable of moving into these other sections of the valley.

Since 2004, plans had existed to incorporate Ankylosaurus into the attraction, but none were in the valley yet by the end of 2015. However, from 2014 onward, the Jurassic World website advertised Ankylosaurus as a species visible from the Gyrosphere, suggesting that they believed the animals were almost ready for integration. The main obstacle was ensuring that the ankylosaurs did not experience conflict with the territorial Triceratops, which would sometimes harass the juveniles of other species. Despite this, InGen was able to successfully house adult and juvenile animals of several species within the valley, with distinct social groups and hierarchies emerging. As of 2014, there were thirty de-extinct species visible from the Gyrosphere attraction, including both animals and plants.

By 2014, the Gyrosphere had become one of Jurassic World’s most prominent attractions, being featured on many advertisements both on and off the island. Wait times were generally at least half an hour. A safety and instructional video was created for the benefit of visitors, with celebrity newscaster and comedian Jimmy Fallon providing the video’s narration. The gyrospheres were not without issues; for example, cell reception within the gyrosphere shell was spotty at best, and the invisible fence technology sometimes failed to keep dinosaurs a safe distance away from the vehicles. When in manual mode, gyrospheres could fail to automatically roll back when approaching a dinosaur too closely. Furthermore, the vehicles were not entirely watertight, and if damaged too severely the gyroscopic technology could fail and cause the passenger cabin to flip upside down. However, serious incidents appear to have been rare. Incidents involving Dilophosaurus escaping from Sector 5 into the valley were known to occur, but visitors in gyrospheres were protected due to the aluminum oxynitride hull. There was also a minor incident in 2015 in which a Troodon specimen breached containment and entered the valley, harassing a Triceratops and two tourists in a gyrosphere. The incident was responded to by Drs. Kate Walker and Martin Riley, as well as ACU under the command of InGen Security’s Head of Special Ops, Kurt Reed. There were no casualties.

Three unnumbered gyrospheres were in use at Camp Cretaceous on December 17, 2015 in order to allow the campers to observe the restricted area’s herd up close. These gyrospheres appeared less functional as well as less sturdy. This, along with their lack of ID numbers, suggests that they were probably put together hastily for the camp. Because they were not in the Gyrosphere Valley, they lacked much of the automated programming of the park’s normal spheres. There was no automatic rollback if a dinosaur was approached too closely, nor would the dinosaurs’ tracking implants shock them if they got too close to a gyrosphere. These safety problems were intended to be compensated for by the camp’s counselors maintaining strict control of the group, but there was a serious safety incident during a thunderstorm that caused dinosaurs to panic. The campers attempted to herd a fleeing Sinoceratops back to the herd, but this only increased the panic and led to a stampede. During the ensuing chaos, a gyrosphere driven by Kenji Kon and Ben Pincus was rendered inoperable after a collision, and one driven by Darius Bowman and Brooklynn was damaged by the agitated Sinoceratops and sunk in a deep mud pit. The sunken gyrosphere was recovered, but was now inoperable. Only the sphere driven by Sammy Guitierrez and Yasmina Fadoula remained usable. This was one of several serious safety issues at Camp Cretaceous which the counselors raised, though this particular incident was their own fault for leaving the campers unattended.

2015-present: Closure and decay

On December 18, 2015, an incident occurred in Jurassic World involving the escape of a genetically modified animal, the Indominus rex. Due to the escape, the Gyrosphere operator Josh was instructed with shutting down the attraction sometime after 3:00pm CST. All gyrospheres were returned from the field, visitors departing from the Loading Station while the vehicles themselves were brought into the gyrostations. Gyrosphere 07, in use by Senior Assets Manager Claire Dearing‘s visiting nephews Zach and Gray Mitchell, failed to return due to the boys’ decision to enter manual driving mode and ignore the ride’s closure. They exited Sector 4 through a damaged gate into the ankylosaur habitat in Sector 5. While in the restricted area, they encountered four Ankylosaurus and bore witness to the escaped Indominus ambushing and killing one of the herbivorous animals. During this conflict, the gyrosphere was incapacitated and stalled out.

damaged gyrosphere
Dearing and Grady locate Gyrosphere 07’s remains, Isla Nublar (12/18/2015)

The Indominus, having been drawn to the vehicle, proceeded to further damage it in order to extract its passengers. As a result, the vehicle was destroyed beyond repair as the boys fled the scene with the animal in pursuit. The gyrosphere’s remains were later discovered by Dearing, who was assisted by InGen Security animal behaviorist Owen Grady. Since the ride was now closed indefinitely and repairing damaged vehicle assets was fairly low priority during the 2015 incident, Gyrosphere 07’s remains were abandoned in the Sector 5 woodland where the attack occurred.

Since Jurassic World did not reopen after its evacuation on December 18, the Gyrosphere attraction was also left closed. Over the next three years, the park ran down; by February of 2017, all five gyrostations were sending out automated maintenance requests, which would go ignored. The gyrospheres themselves became scattered around the northern part of the island, most likely by animals using them as playthings. Several had been pushed into the northern valley near Mount Sibo as of 2018, as this area was heavily populated by dinosaurs; most of these were heavily damaged and some were entirely disarticulated, but at least Gyrosphere 08 was still functional.

Dinosaurs continued to inhabit the Gyrosphere Valley area, though over time many of the animals moved northward toward Mount Sibo.

Dearing, Grady, and Webb take shelter near Gyrosphere 08, Isla Nublar (6/23/2018)

On June 23, 2018, a capture operation on Isla Nublar concluded with the eruption of Mount Sibo. Gyrosphere 08 was used for shelter by Dinosaur Protection Group personnel Claire Dearing and Franklin Webb during a stampede caused by the eruption, though the assisting Owen Grady was unable to enter before the door was accidentally triggered to lock. As the gyrosphere was still in functional condition, Dearing and Webb were able to use it to roll away from the volcanic eruption. The retreat concluded with Gyrosphere 08 plummeting over the northern cliffs into the ocean, where it began to leak and fill with seawater. The locks did not disengage, but Grady was able to puncture the shell using close-range fire with a Sig Sauer P226R and then pried the door open using a hunting knife. Gyrosphere 08 was abandoned as it sank and is presumably still located at the bottom of the East Pacific Ocean near Isla Nublar.

The rest of the gyrospheres were likely destroyed, or at least severely damaged, during the volcanic eruption due to their proximity to Mount Sibo and its lava flows. Gyrosphere Valley itself would have been overwhelmed by lava bombs, superheated toxic gas, and ashfall, rendering it inhospitable to most animals and plants. It is unknown if any pioneer species have recolonized the valley since the 2018 eruption.

Cultural Significance

The Gyrosphere was one of the most featured attractions at Jurassic World, with advertisements being around as common as the Mosasaurus Feeding Show and T. rex Kingdom. With dozens of operable gyrospheres to use, the attraction could accommodate a large number of visitors at a time, and the large area accessible to them prevented overcrowding. While the attraction was not accessible to all visitors (people affected by motion sickness and pregnant visitors were discouraged from riding, and there was a 42″ height restriction), the comfortable sitting arrangement allowed the Gyrosphere to accommodate mobility-impaired visitors. It did not require any particular driving skill, as multiple programmed routes through the valley were already charted and the vehicles’ intuitive machine learning enabled them to keep their passengers safe without direct intervention in most cases.

The unique design of the gyrosphere was another factor which drew tourists to it in droves. When the patent leaked in 2004, some members of the public thought it was a hoax because of its unconventional appearance. While the gyrosphere’s unusual shape came with a number of challenges, it also provided advantages over more traditional vehicles. Its gyroscopic stabilizers negated some of the bumps and jostling associated with four-wheeled transport, and since the entire shell of the vehicle was transparent, it provided an almost three-hundred-sixty-degree view of dinosaurs nearby. The electric vehicles ran almost silently, which reduced noise pollution in the valley and made it easier to view the dinosaurs without disturbing them. Masrani Global took a risk in designing such an unorthodox vehicle, but this ultimately paid off; even up until the last day of park operations, the Gyrosphere queue remained one of the longest on the island. The emblem of the gyrosphere came to symbolize Jurassic World itself, an easily-recognizable icon of innovative technology found nowhere else.

Ecological Significance

Gyrosphere Valley was among the most ecologically challenging of Jurassic World’s exhibits, featuring at least thirty different animals and plants alongside Isla Nublar’s native wildlife. The area contained grassland, forests, and a large watering hole, with the western part of the valley full of hills and ravines while the eastern part was flatter. Piecing together the valley’s artificial ecosystem was a laborious process; InGen’s animal behaviorists needed to determine the needs of each species and ensure that none of their comfort requirements came into conflict. Brachiosaurus was one of the first animals reintroduced to the valley, arriving in January of 2004; Triceratops were delivered beginning in the spring of that year. By the summer of 2004, Gallimimus and Parasaurolophus were also present in the valley.

The introduction of these large herbivores altered the native ecosystem. Their movements and feeding patterns encouraged the spread of grassland, though some forested areas remained. Native carnivorous animals were kept at bay, which benefited smaller native wildlife such as birds, but also would have caused the populations of native animals to shift. Modern plant life in the valley was altered by InGen as well; monkey-puzzle trees and heliconias are among the non-native plants introduced to the valley. Native plant species included Gunnera insignis and the kapok tree. While dinosaurs were being introduced to the valley, InGen instilled a calcium supplement into the area’s water sources; unbeknownst to them, this substance reacted with igneous rock to create a mutagen which affected indigenous cyanobacteria. The mutant strains had highly acidic properties, which caused health issues to dinosaurs in the valley throughout 2004 until the issue was identified.

Among the greatest challenges of the valley ecosystem was Triceratops, a territorial herbivore known to sometimes harass the juveniles of other animals to such a degree that the victims might starve to death. This prevented the early integration of Ankylosaurus to the valley; while this animal was intended to feature in the Gyrosphere attraction, it was never fully integrated. However, InGen had success with other animals, such as Stegosaurus; they also introduced Apatosaurus, which replaced Brachiosaurus as the resident sauropod by 2014. InGen even managed to succeed in breeding dinosaurs in the valley despite the aggressive nature of the Triceratops using careful animal management practices.

The human element of the valley was also of concern. While the animals could pose a threat to humans because of their huge size, human activity could also potentially stress the animals. In order to reduce human stress on the creatures, the gyrospheres were programmed to automatically roll back if they approached too closely to a dinosaur (as determined by the RFID chip system). However, manually-operated gyrospheres did not necessarily abide by this protocol. Visitors were advised to never come between parent dinosaurs and their offspring, or to separate any dinosaurs from their social groups. The gyrospheres also operated nearly silently, meaning that their noises were less likely to disturb dinosaurs.

De-extinct species found in the Gyrosphere attraction included:

  • Brachiosaurus – present from January 2004; removed by 2014
  • Triceratops – introduced during or after March 2004
  • Parasaurolophus – introduced prior to summer 2004
  • Gallimimus – introduced prior to summer 2004; possibly exclusive to Gallimimus Valley by 2014
  • Stegosaurus – introduced prior to 2014
  • Apatosaurus – introduced between winter 2004 and 2014
  • Possibly Pachycephalosaurus
  • Possibly Edmontosaurus
  • Several other de-extinct animal/plant species, for a total of 30
  • Ankylosaurus – planned to be on exhibit since 2004, but never successfully integrated
  • Dilophosaurus – unintended resident which sometimes escaped into the valley

After the park was closed down in December of 2015, the dinosaurs were no longer restricted by the invisible fences enforced by their RFID chip implants. Now able to roam freely, many left the valley for the less developed north; others remained there since it was a ready-made ideal habitat. Some of the animals broke into gyrostations and liberated the gyrospheres inside, using the abandoned vehicles as toys; some were found in 2018 as far north as Mount Sibo, a testament to the extent that dinosaurs would move the objects while playing with them.

However, from December 2015 onward, Gyrosphere Valley would no longer be a complete safe haven from carnivorous animals. While it was not unknown for Dilophosaurus to break into the valley during normal park operation, these incidents would be dealt with by ACU; with no security forces left on the island, carnivores would no longer be captured and removed. Furthermore, large carnivores that could pose real threat to the bigger herbivorous animals could enter the valley unhindered. Balance began to come to the valley as carnivores culled the large herbivore population.

Predation would not be the only threat to life in the valley, as Mount Sibo became active in 2017 and grew increasingly unstable over the following year. While Gyrosphere Valley was not immediately near the volcano, it was still affected by its activity. This reached its peak on June 23, 2018, when the volcano erupted violently and caused severe damage to all regions of the island. Plant life in the valley would have been blanketed in hot ash and choked by volcanic gases, if not incinerated by the extreme temperatures and lava flows. With the base of the food chain gone, herbivores would have starved, and carnivores would have followed suit. Both de-extinct and modern wildlife of Gyrosphere Valley, excepting some of the hardiest survivor species, are probably absent by this point in time.

Behind the Scenes

Concept art for Jurassic World features a “Gallimimus Run” attraction in which visitors herd Gallimimus using gyrospheres. The animals are herded into a set of sluice gates while the Tyrannosaurus partakes in a hunt, attacking and killing a Gallimimus. This attraction concept, while exciting, was probably cut due to the inherent danger in having gyrosphere-bound visitors operating in close proximity to a hungry tyrannosaur, as well as the questionable morality of having the Gallimimus herded to their deaths by visitors as entertainment.