Telegraph Cove to Hanson Island
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Shadow by
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War Canoe
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Canoe Bow
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Chief & Elders
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It appears as if we may have an opportunity to assist in the return to her
pod, of
the adolescent Orca whale A73(Springer).  From inside
"the zone of exclusion" Stay tuned for further info
Uploading via the 
courtesy of the Telegraph Cove Marina and April Beech.

July 14

Yesterday we found ourselves in the middle of an almost unbelievable  drama/whale/media event that will be hard to describe or forget. A73, “Springer,” the orphan killer whale that has attracted world-wide attention, arrived aboard her private 140 foot catamaran from Seattle.  She made the trip that took us over a week in only 10 hours.  Then, to the accompaniment of a phenomenal array of scientists from all areas of biology, beaurocrats from all departments of US and Canadian governments, the RCMP, Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries Law Enforcement, First Nations representatives, and various other flotsam and jetsam, Springer was hoisted from her Catamaran onto the deck of a crane barge and along with about 40 handlers and animal health experts, brought her to her new home, a 50 by 50 by 30 net pen set in an isolated bay on Hanson Island near Telegraph Cove.

In spite of my obvious cynicism, it was a genuinely impressive and memorable event.  Shadow had been asked by Vancouver Aquarium personnel to serve as an observation platform (inside the “zone of exclusion”) and tied to her pen for observers keeping twenty-four hour watch.  Shortly before Springer arrived, Chief Bill Cranmer from Alert Bay and elders representing First Nations people arrived aboard to constitute a welcoming committee.  Their war canoes were magnificent, with many paddlers in traditional clothing.  Also standing by were a large number of first nations peoples in their purse sieners and many in traditional dress on the cliffs.

Springer lay quietly in her sling on the barge as it maneuvered to the net pen.  Then as her care givers hovered she was given a final round of medical tests, hoisted slowly up and over into the pen to be received by a team of divers.  Once out of the sling, Springer took command.  She spy hopped, breeched, jumped, tail-flipped and generally cavorted like a killer whale.  Chief Cramer and drummers conducted an impressive traditional welcoming ceremony.

Then the bay began to empty quickly.  It was the intention of all the scientists and whale experts involved that Springer receive minimum human contact once she had arrived safely.  Well before dark, a few remaining observers were aboard Shadow and her crew and guests relaxed in the salon and rehashed all the day’s excitement and potential perils and congratulations and thanks were exchanged regarding the glories of the day.  Then we turned in while the whale team kept vigil.  With a hydrophone in the water we heard Springer continuing to vocalize throughout the night.

This morning there has been a steady stream of whale researchers from Canada and the US aboard, recording Springer’s every splash and breath.  Everyone is waiting for her home pod to approach more closely.  Her relatives were near by this morning, but on the other side of the island.  When they move to this side, it is expected that the sides of the pen will be dropped and phase two of the saga will commence.


July 15

Yesterday was another banner day.  Mid morning a pod loosely related to Springer began to move into the area.  Closely monitored by Paul and Helena at Orcalab and Alexandra Morton, as well as the various other whale experts on scene, the pod began to move toward us.  Quickly Springer's handlers donned their dive suits and entered her net pen.  The nets were tightened and radio transmitters were attached with suction cups to her back.  As we waited for a final decision on her release, depending on identification of the pod and their intentions, the excitement of everyone in the cove was intense. 

Finally the decision came:  drop the nets.  Ever so quickly, this small mammal who had been the object of such intense care by so many people was gone!  A cheer went up and wild cheering was everywhere.  It must have been a bitter-sweet moment for many people who had devoted so much energy to her well-being to see her at last released and free. 

Through the night Graham Ellis and John Ford monitored her position.  This morning we are receiving moment by moment reports from Alex.  As I write, Springer appears to be in the general vicinity of a pod, although the distance between them seems to be growing.  Stay tuned!

For more info on A73 and Orcas -- see the following web sites:

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War Canoe 
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Lowering A73 
into Pen
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Spy Hop
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A man and his 
whale /Pete
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Pod off shore