Springer the killer whale leaps in her pen near Telegraph Cove
Sunday as her caretakers look on in the background. Chuck Stoody/Canadian
Orphaned Orca Returns Home
BY Terri Theodore
July 1 5 , 2 0 0 2
B.C. - Springer the orphaned killer whale arrived home in Canada on Saturday
after a 12-hour trip from her temporary stay in the waters near Seattle.
Scientists who were by Springer's side on her journey in
a high-speed catamaran released the baby orca into a net-pen south of this cove
off the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
Nightingale, president of the Vancouver Aquarium, said Springer remained calm
on the smooth trip home to Canada.
"She had three times
where she wiggled around, which any of us would probably do if we were laying
horizontally for 12 hours," he said.
some "toys" in Springer's pen, including floating scrub brushes and a log
because she likes to rub on them.
"When they put her in
the pen there will be something immediately familiar that she knows," Mr.
Springer will be released into the wild
when her pod comes by so she can be reunited with her family in the first such
effort by scientists.
The two-year-old orca, who has
captured the affection of scientists and coastal residents from British
Columbia to Washington state, is believed to have become separated from her
home pod last year after her mother died.
some time swimming with another pod before wandering off alone last year into
the busy waters near Seattle. She was moved last month to an ocean pen in
Washington's Puget Sound.
The whale will eventually be
released from the net-pen if her family doesn't swim by.
Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian David Huff, who
accompanied Springer on the trip, said that even if she isn't reunited with her
grandmother or a pod of her aunts, she'll be safer on her own in Canadian
waters than she was in the boat-infested waters off Seattle.
Early Saturday, biologists with Canada's Department of
Fisheries and Oceans spotted Springer's grandmother in the Johnstone Strait
neighbourhood off northern Vancouver Island.
Springer set sail from Puget Sound in a tank on the front deck of the
catamaran, an official announced over the onboard public address system:
"Grandma is in the Strait."
Earlier in the journey, about
100 residents of Campbell River on Vancouver Island greeted the orca with a
"Welcome Springer" sign.
First Nations artist Ralph
Wilson also offered the captain of the catamaran a carved mask as a gift.
People in Port McNeill, B.C., near Telegraph Cove, were
also waiting anxiously for Springer's arrival in a town that relies on whale
watching as an important tourism draw.
The orca was
slathered in lanolin and covered with white towels to protect her from the sun
while she travelled back to her home. The box was filled with water to float
Springer in the sling and ensure her internal organs weren't crushed under her
She settled in quickly with the help of two or
three people who were in the tank to rub and scratch her and croon assurances.
"Young whales in general, young killer whales in
particular, seem to seek out some kind of tactile reassurance," Mr. Huff said.
The whole operation is expected to cost at least
Vancouver Aquarium officials are hoping
donations cover most of the costs, but only $10,000 has so far been collected.