On the heels, or flippers as the case may be, of the release of the long-awaited movie Dolphin Tale, there is bound to be a resurgence in dolphin adoration among young and old. Deemed the feel-good movie of the year, Dolphin Tale is based on the true story of a bottlenose dolphin named Winter.
Caught in a crab trap at three months of age, Winter was found stranded on the beach in Mosquito Lagoon, near Cape Canaveral, Florida, by a fisherman. In the movie version, a fisherman and troubled boy named Sawyer Nelson find her.
Marine mammal experts from the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were called in and she was taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) in Clearwater, FL, which is called the Clearwater Marine Hospital in the movie.
Winter eventually lost her entire tail fin and two vertebrae. Without a tail fin, it is virtually impossible for a dolphin to swim. Now, here is where the story gets really interesting.
With the hope, hard work and determination of marine biologists, volunteers and trainers at CMA, Winter was given a prosthetics tail fin and relearned to swim. Hanger Prosthetics, which makes prosthetic limbs for human amputees, made Winter’s tail. Winter has also learned to swim beautifully without the prosthesis, by swaying her body from side to side rather than up and down.
Dolphin Tale was filmed on location at Winter’s home at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) in Clearwater Beach, Florida. CMA, a working aquarium, specializes in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of stranded and injured animals. Dolphins, sea turtles, otters, sharks and manatees are nursed back to health. If any are deemed unable to return to the wild (like Winter), they become permanent residents of the aquarium.
Several dolphins reside with Winter at CMA, including Nicholas, Hope and Panama. Nicholas and his mother were found at Christmas time. Nicholas suffered sunburn scars on his back. His mother did not survive. Hope is the youngest of the dolphin crew and loves to chase toys around her tank. All of the dolphins are doing well in their home at the CMA.
Winter has become the most famous dolphin in Florida and probably the world. She and her aquatic friends give daily shows to educate visitors about marine animals and show how the aquarium works to rehabilitate and return injured animals to the wild. From the lower level of the aquarium, you can watch Winter swimming, as well as view and learn about lots of other tropical, Gulf and ocean fish. There is a hands-on tank with friendly manta rays.
Take a few minutes to peruse the slideshow of Winter and CMA scenes (there a couple of movie props in there), as well as watch the videos of the prosthetic tail fin being attached. All photos and video were shot on location at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You can become a fan of Winter and the CMA on Facebook.
Winter gives hope and inspiration to the many disabled children, adults and wounded Army soldiers that have visited her at the aquarium. She has been visited by Scott Rigsby, the first double amputee to complete the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon.
From the producers of The Blind Side, Dolphin Tale stars Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson. Nathan Gamble portrays Sawyer Nelson.
While Clearwater, Florida is a bit of a drive for Richmonders to visit Winter, there are other ways to appease your cetacean obsession. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach offers dolphin tours aboard the Rudee Flipper. Virginia Beach is only about 110 miles from Richmond and makes a great day trip.
Tours last about 90 minutes and run April through October. Adult tickets are $21.00 and kids are $15.00. Tickets may be purchased at the Virginia Aquarium or at the dock. Visit the Rudee Tours website or call (757) 425-3400 for more information on seeing Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the wild.
Richmond area homeschoolers will be happy to know that Dolphin Tale is part of the homeschool movie curriculum. For some great tips and ideas on homeschooling, check out Examiner Tere Scott’s column. She also has some great articles on frugal living and Christian music.
Thanks for reading. To stay up-to-date on all of the news and events happening in the Richmond area, kindly click subscribe at the top of the page, connect on Facebook or follow on Twitter.