Groups celebrate anniversary of Springer’s rescue

UPDATE: June 15

I didn’t realize until this morning that the YouTube video I posted contained only about a fourth of the original half-hour “Orphan Orca: Saving Springer” program. I’ve replaced it with the full version I found on Vimeo. Sorry for the oversight.

A celebration of Springer’s dramatic rescue, which began 10 years ago this week, will be held a week from Saturday, June 23, at Seattle’s Alki Bathhouse.

Springer, of course, is the female orca who was captured near the Seattle-Vashon ferry lanes, moved to Manchester for a time and then reunited with her extended family near the north end of Vancouver Island. See Kitsap Sun, June 12, 2002, and watch the video on this page, which was produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The Springer success story is an inspiration for all of us working in these marine waters,” Lynne Barre of the NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center said in a news release. “The relationships forged by Springer have helped foster successful international cooperation of many conservation efforts, including oil spill prevention and response, fisheries management and habitat protection.”

“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success — the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail in the news release. “But today our whales are in trouble. We hope Springer’s success inspires people to join us in working on issues facing orcas today, with the same urgency, commitment and resolve.”

Sandstrom is organizing Seattle’s free event, which will feature a welcome dance by the Duwamish Tribe’s Singing Feet dancers.

The Le-La-La Dancers, a First Nations troupe from Victoria, will appear in Seattle for the first time and perform a killer-whale-mask dance and other traditional dances. (Members of the group greeted Springer with the same mask when she returned home to her family 10 years ago.)

A celebration in Telegraph Cove, where Springer was released in 2002, is scheduled for July 12 to 15.

On Tuesday, a celebration was held at Vancouver Aquarium.

For information, check the “Celebrate Springer” Facebook page or The Whale Trail website.

It is believed that 2-year-old Springer strayed into Puget Sound, far from her home waters, after her mother died. Remarkably, it was at the same time that Luna, a 2-year-old male orca from the Southern Resident pods, was found in Nootka Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

After I broke the news of these two young whales in foreign waters, the unusual circumstances drew international attention. A rescue for Luna was never completed, and he was tragically killed by a propeller of a large boat three years later.

Springer was taken back into her pod, and it appears she was watched over by her aunt. Springer’s story continues, and researchers are waiting for the day she is observed with her own young calf.

3 thoughts on “Groups celebrate anniversary of Springer’s rescue

  1. An interesting footnote to Springer’s story is that she was seen in Swinomish Channel and off Edmonds before she established herself off Vashon Island.

    The sightings are:
    2002 sightings reports (
    Thursday, January 3
    First is a report of a lone orca in Swinomish Channel, called in by Jack Sanford. Yesterday at dusk he saw what he is 90% sure was a small orca swimming in the channel. Subsequent callers reported seeing a small orca in Swinomish Channel Wednesday, Jan 2 and Thursday Jan 3.

    Thursday, January 10
    We got a call at 1:30 a.m. this morning from the Arthur Foss Tug, which was at the Oil Dock at Pt. Wells, south of Edmonds. They reported a young orca (8-9′ in length) swimming back & forth right next to the ship they were getting ready to escort out. They said the orca was moving slowly, & staying near the surface, & had been there about 45 minutes. The description & behavior sounded very much like the reports of the whale in Swinomish Channel, & again, the guys on the Foss Tug reported it had a white belly & were very sure it was an orca. We have reported this to NMFS, & checked again with the crew of the Foss, but their last report was at 2 am when they pulled away from the dock & the whale was still there.

  2. UPDATE: June 15

    I didn’t realize until this morning that the YouTube video I posted contained only about a fourth of the original half-hour “Orphan Orca: Saving Springer” program. I’ve replaced it with the full version I found on Vimeo. Sorry for the oversight.

  3. Luna was probably seen in Nootka Sound on March 1, 2001, and definitely was seen in July 2001, and died there on March 10, 2006.

    March, 2001: Residents of Nootka Sound report sightings of a lone killer whale in Nootka Sound. This is not unusual as transients are often in the area.

    July, 2001: An unidentified, lone orca calf is seen repeatedly in Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island BC and reported to DFO.

    March 10, 2006 – Luna is killed by a tugboat propeller.


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