Springer's on her way home
Orphaned orca begins journey back to Canadian waters
Saturday, July 13, 2002
Springer was taken out of a huge ocean pen where she's spent the last month and lowered in a sling into a large wooden box on the deck of the catamaran. (BCTV News on Global)
Springer was lifted from her ocean pen in Puget Sound Saturday morning and placed in a box filled with water to ensure her internal organs aren't crushed under her weight. (BCTV News on Global)
MANCHESTER, Wash. - With some squawks and whines, a bend in her tail and some slaps of her flippers, Springer the orphan killer whale began her journey home Saturday.
The two-year-old was smoothly loaded just after dawn onto a high-speed catamaran that will take her from Washington's Puget Sound to her home waters off northern Vancouver Island.
"It went exceptionally well,'' said Vancouver Aquarium vet David Huff.
"It was just as we said. She's very resilient. She's very accepting. It's no big deal to her. It went well.''
Springer was taken out of a huge ocean pen where she's spent the last month and lowered in a sling into a large wooden box on the deck of the catamaran.
She was slathered in lanolin and covered in white towels to protect her from the sun. The box was filled with water to float Springer in the sling and ensure her internal organs aren't crushed under her weight.
She settled in quickly.
The weather cooperated with warm temperatures, calm seas and leaden skies as the catamaran sped off for Telegraph Cove, B.C.
The U.S. and Canadian scientists working with Springer were in further good spirits after receiving news that her family pod - believed to include her grandmother and aunts - has just been spotted in the Telegraph Cover area.
In the first-ever attempt of it's kind, scientists are hoping they can re-introduce Springer back into her family - or at least, into another pod - after about a year away.
The personable whale, who has captured the affection of professional and amateur whale watchers from British Columbia down the Pacific coast, is believed to have become separated from her home pod last year after her mother died.
She spent some time swimming with another pod before wandering off alone into busy waters near Seattle.
She was first spotted in January and endeared herself to those frequenting the busy Vashon Island ferry terminal, where she playfully pushed a stick around and dodged heavy boat traffic.
But she wasn't in good health. A nasty rash covered her body and she suffered from ketosis, another ailment that scientists were concerned meant she had diabetes or was suffering from starvation.
Springer was moved to an ocean pen in Puget Sound a month ago, away from boat traffic. Food was piped into her pen to ensure she didn't associate it with humans and she received veterinary care.
She's now considered in perfect health.
The whole operation is expected to cost at least $500,000. The use of the catamaran has been donated and many people are volunteering their time.
Vancouver Aquarium officials are hoping donations cover most of the costs, but only $10,000 has so far been collected.
Scientists have said the mission will be a success even if Springer is shunned by other pods but is able to live out her 70- to 80-year lifespan alone and healthy in the wild.
Springer, whose scientific name is A73 after her pod and birth order, was to have left Friday, but a mechanical problem with the catamaran delayed the trip.
The problem was fixed later in the day and officials said they now expect a speedy eight-hour journey to Telegraph Cove, B.C.
At the British Columbia end of the journey, Vancouver Island residents anxious waited for the arrival of the huge animal that has become something of a celebrity.
Some hotels and bed-and-breakfasts hung Welcome Springer signs and there's been a buzz in the air among locals and tourists.
"It's a neat thing to see a whale rescued from the position that it was in,'' said Gerry Furney, mayor of Port McNeill.