An amazing story that unfolded just west of here 15 years ago, with many West Seattleites involved, will be retold and celebrated starting this Saturday. Donna Sandstrom of WS-based The Whale Trail shares the explanation and invitation:
“Celebrate Springer!” marks the 15th anniversary of the dramatic rescue in the waters off of Vashon Island of the orphaned orca Springer (A-73) and the heroic efforts by Washington and British Columbia teams working together to return her safely to her home 300 miles north in Johnstone Strait at the north end of Vancouver Island.
Today, Springer is still healthy and in 2013 had her first calf, Spirit. They are most often seen on the north central British Columbia coast and occasionally return to Johnstone Strait in summer.
The 2002 Springer rescue team will reconvene at 1 PM on Saturday, May 20, at the Vashon Theater to tell “Springer’s Story,” first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated.
“Celebrate Springer!” will also feature a dance performance by Le La La Dancers, who were present at Springer’s release, and followed at 5 PM by The Whale Trail sign dedication at the Point Robinson Lighthouse Park.
Sponsors for the Vashon Theater event are Jody Peetz and Pete Schroeder, Marine Mammal Veterinarian. Tickets are available in advance from Vashon Theater tickets (go here).
The Point Robinson location has been identified by The Whale Trail as one of the best places to watch whales from shore. The new sign was funded by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and customized for the Point Robinson site with the assistance of Vashon resident Rebecca Benson, Point Robinson historian Bruce Haulman and Vashon Park staff Eric Wyatt.
“Life is filled with magical moments,” said Vashon Parks executive director Elaine Ott-Rocheford. “I count myself lucky to hold a front row seat to many spectacular sights from our own beloved park system. We are thrilled about the new Whale Trail sign being posted at Point Robinson Park, as it provides a ready education about the natural marine life wonders to be viewed from the park’s shoreline. The posting of the sign represents a perfect tribute to the story of Springer, the orphaned Orca, who was rescued off the north end of Vashon Island.”
The new Whale Trail sign is one of three funded by the state Fish and Wildlife Department. Others will be dedicated in the summer at Fay Bainbridge State Park and at Point Defiance.
“WDFW provides services that link our quality of life to healthy natural resources and ecosystems,” said Deputy Chief Mike Cenci with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police. ”It’s a privilege to be a partner in this project where the public can view and appreciate the spectacle of these Northwest icons from shore. Watch for and wave at the Fish and Wildlife Police Boat that ensures protection of the whales.”
“Springer’s story is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and organizer of the Vashon Island event. “We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, courage and resolve.”
“Celebrate Springer!” events will continue in June and July with programs at NOAA Fisheries, Whale Trail Orca Talk, Whale Trail sign dedications, and conclude with a three-day program at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia, where Springer was released in 2002 and rejoined her Northern Resident family.