It's been 10 years since orphaned orca Springer was returned to her pod

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on August 8, 2012 at 6:30 PM

It’s been 10 years since the orphaned orca called Springer was reunited with her pod in the wild.

"This was something that was never done before,” said Michael Kundu of Project SeaWolf.

"I wonder if there's  such a thing as a high speed catamaran that could take a whale, and on January fourth 2002 I called Matt Nichols," said Bob McLaughlin of Project SeaWolf

"It just so happened we had one sitting right here at this same dock at Langley on Whidby Island waiting for a customer to buy it,” said Matt Nichols, CEO, Nichols Bros. Boat Builders

And just like that, the reunion was underway. It seemed so smooth, but there was rough sailing ahead.

"We were pretty naïve, to honest with you, on what we were getting involved in,” said Nichols.

"Up here on the bridge we had no idea what was going on down below, the guys down below were heroes,” said McLaughlin.

"You know we had pumps failing, we had filters clogging, sea strainers plugging, all the little things that can go wrong was going on,” said Michael Downey, Quality Assurance at Nichols Bros.

The boat wasn't ready for a full on sprint to Canada, and while the boys dealt with emergencies below, Springer was having problems above.

"But the water temperature was getting warm, so to avoid a problem if we had another delay or something, we needed to get ice,” said McLaughlin.

They needed an emergency stop in Campbell River. They needed help, but they couldn't imagine they would get it from the whole town that greeted them.

“The whole town came through. I mean we had almost everybody in a little conga line tossing the ice three feet down the way for about an hour,” said McLaughlin.

Hours later the little orphan that thrilled ferry riders in Elliott Bay was in her home waters and a few days later, she was accepted back into her pod.

"It shows it's not impossible to take a whale that is orphaned return her to her family and have her reintegrate with that family,” said McLaughlin.

Springer has been a wild orca living with her family ever since her rescue.

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