This article was taken from the
Times Globe, a local Saint John, newspaper. Issued Wednesday, May 27/98
A Saint John company is helping send Keiko
By AMY CAMERON
A Saint John company has been chosen to help one
of Hollywood's biggest stars make a splashy comeback into the Atlantic
Keiko, the l0,000-pound orca whale who starred in
the popular Hollywood blockbuster Free Willy, is returning home to the
Icelandic waters where he was captured in 1979.
order to accomplish this monumental task, Saint John's Maritime Aqua Service,
along with Cards Aquaculture Products Ltd. of Pennfield, have been recruited.
The companies will build the netting and net tension system that will be used
in part of the floating pen where Keiko will readjust to his natural
"As you can imagine, there are no industry
standards on building a net for a whale," laughs Blair Moffat, president of
Maritime Aqua Service (MAS).
"But it is in everybody's
interest that this works," he continues seriously, "There is no room for error
on this project."
The company, which won the Saint John
Board of Trade business of the year award last year, has been hired to create
the tension system that will keep the net rigid and free from pockets that
could trap Keiko. The system is a 240-metre round ballasted plastic pipe system
that hangs beneath the net to keep it taut.
Aquaculture Products Ltd., who has worked with MAS before, has been hired to
construct the net cage.
The New Brunswick companies sent
in a joint proposal to the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation after Mr. Moffatt heard
about the whale's "half-way home" over the Internet.
While the half-way home was already under construction,
being built from extra-strength, polyethylene pipe, the foundation had not yet
chosen anyone for the net or tension system.
Willy-Keiko Foundation, which is sponsoring the entire project, has been
working to return Keiko to his home since he was bought from Mexico's Reino
Aventura Aquarium in 1996. Two thousand pounds underweight and covered with
lesions, Keiko was flown to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
is now the foundation's goal to gradually reacclimatize the 21-year-old whale
into the ocean. The foundation is hoping to completely release the whale into
the wild by next spring, but the companies involved in the pen construction
will have plenty of time to make sure everything works perfectly.
Cards Aquaculture Products Ltd. has jumped at the
opportunity of helping to free "Willy" by creating a supersized net that will
mirror the cage structure.
The net, of the same material
used for professional hockey nets but coated with resin, is expected to weigh
around 7,500 pounds. It is now being constructed in Ontario, and will be
shipped to New Brunswick at the end of the month so that Cards Aqua can begin
to build the cage.
The article below was taken from
the Times Globe, Tuesday, June 9/98
Whale of a
Shediac business wins bid to keep Keiko
the killer whale's sea cage steady
By MARK REID
A Shediac business
has hooked a whale of a contract - to provide the mooring system that will help
"Free Willy" return to the wild.
Keiko, the killer whale-
turned-movie-star featured in the popular Hollywood film Free Willy, is
returning to his home waters off the coast of Iceland.
Strait Moorings International has been hired to build a high-tech support
system that will keep Keiko's special sea-cage steady while he acclimatizes to
his new ocean home.
Free Willy hit the silver
screen in 1992 and was an immediate hit. In the movie, a young boy helps Willy
escape from his mean captors. Real life, however, didn't mirror the movie.
Word of Keiko's miserable living conditions spurred a
movement to free the creature. The U.S. President was petitioned by many to
release Willy to the wild.
The hype came to a head with
the creation of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation - a group whose sole purpose is
to return Willy to the wild.
After years of planning,
the project is finally nearing fruition.
The design and
building of Keiko's high-tech sea cage is now under way.
Playing a vital in freeing Keiko will be Rick Shalala's Hurricane Mooring
System - is an ingenious invention based on ancient principles.
Mr. Shalala invented the Hurricane Mooring System five
years ago. The mooring system is based on the ancient inventor Archimedes' most
brainstorm - the simple screw.
Most mooring systems
consist of heavy deadweights linked by series of chains. In ideal conditions,
the dead- weights keep marinas and buoys in place. The ocean, however, rarely
provides ideal conditions; winds and waves often batter mooring systems with
tremendous force, leaving them broken and mangled. For a mooring system to be
effective, it must be able to keep its grip on the ocean floor.
Enter Mr. Shalala's invention. He designed a type of
helical anchor that screws deep into the ocean floor. The anchor is attached to
a special system of high-tech, three-ply polymer ropes that are 10 times
stronger than steel.
The ropes are then attached to the
Seaflex Energy System - a Scandinavian-designed energy absorption system that
keeps cages, nets, buoys and marinas under constant tension.
Keiko's keepers are constructing a large mesh cage more
than 200 feet long and 100 feet wide. Keiko will live in the cage for several
weeks before he is finally released to rejoin other pods of killer whales.
Keiko's watery half-way house, however, may be subjected
to high winds and waves. Should Keiko's cage be tossed about by ocean storms,
the whale could become ensnared in the netting. Thus, it's vital that Keiko's
cage be kept solidly in place.
Mr. Shalala is joining
two other New Brunswick firms that will also be working on the Free Willy
The foundation hopes to release Keiko by next
spring. That gives Mr. Shalala less than a year to design and build the mooring
system. The project is sure to raise Strait Mooring International's profile.
Mr. Shalala says his company is being paid a "six
figure" sum to build the mooring system. More lucrative, however, will be the
windfall in publicity the company stands to gain from doing the project.
"This will get us international exposure we could never
even dream of," Mr. Shalala says. "It will be one of the best things that will
ever happen to this company."
to find out how, "Keikos Off To Iceland".