The ten year anniversary of orphan orca Springer's rescue from Seattle waters was celebrated at the Alki Bathhouse on June 23. Those instrumental in her rescue shared their stories, including Mark Sears (inset, right). New Whale Trail signs are also going up in West Seattle, including this one at Alki Beach (inset, left).
Orphan orca Springer’s saviors honored at Alki; Four Whale Trail signs going up in West Seattle
As Donna Sandstrom with The Whale Trail, an organization devoted to the appreciation and stewardship of whales, puts it, “Ten years ago, an orphaned orca named Springer appeared in the Puget Sound – lost, alone, and 300 miles away from home. Six months later, she was rescued, rehabilitated, and reunited with her pod near the north end of Vancouver Island. Today, she is still healthy and swimming with her extended family, returning with them each year to their summering grounds in Johnstone Straight.”
On Saturday, June 23, several of the people responsible for Springer’s rescue and reconnection with her family gathered at the Alki Bathhouse to share their story, encourage community involvement in saving the whales and protecting the waters they frequent, and dedicate four new Whale Trail signs in West Seattle.
The rescue effort was celebrated as the best in collaboration as everyday citizens, non-profit groups and government organizations worked together to get Springer back to her family in Canada.
Mark Sears, a City of Seattle maintenance worker at Coleman Pool in Lincoln Park and local researcher, was the first person to identify Springer in 2002 after a ferry quartermaster saw what he believed to be a lone juvenile orca and contacted Sears.
“(At first) I said, it could be a porpoise, it could be something else, and he said, ‘No no it’s a killer whale; it’s black and white.’ So I went on over there in the boat that afternoon and shut the engine down right around the dock and hadn’t seen anything and all the sudden, about twenty feet away, this little whale comes up right beside the boat to take a look at me and I went, ‘By golly, that is a little killer whale!’”
Sears contacted local experts at that point, and Springer’s rehabilitation and journey back to Canada began.
“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and organizer of the Alki event. “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.”
Whale Trail signs
Four new educational whale watching signs are going up in West Seattle over the coming weeks, designed by The Whale Trail group and funded by a City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund grant. Sandstrom said the signs, “alert people on what to watch for and how people can help keep the marine mammal of the Salish Sea healthy.”
Signs are going up just north of the Alki Bathhouse (that one is actually already up), Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint, Emma Schmitz Viewpoint and Lincoln Park.