Published on January 4th, 2012 | by vlajca2
A Dolphin Called Winter
On a cold December of 2005, a three-month old bottlenose dolphin calf found herself caught in crab trap in Mosquito Lagoon, Florida. She was later rescued by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in serious condition. The staff who was caring for her did not expect her to survive, but she instead defied all odds.
Today, Winter the Dolphin resides at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, FL where this tailless dolphin not only serves as an ambassador for her species, but continues to inspire millions of people around the world to love and care for dolphins.
Injury and discovery
Winter got entangled in the ropes of a crab trap, on December 10, 2005, in Mosquito Lagoon off the coast of Florida. The rope cut off the supply of blood to her tail. She was spotted and caught by a small fishing boat and a SeaWorld team (with assistance from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute) which brought her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Winter (estimated to be about two months old when she was rescued) survived, but her tail flaked off due to the lack of blood for a prolonged period of time. At first it was thought that Winter would have to learn to swim without a tail, but this forced her to swim with a “side to side” body motion instead of the normal “up and down” motion, and the veterinarians feared that this unusual movement would damage her spine. Kevin Carroll, who had designed prosthetics for other animals (including dogs, an ostrich and a duck), volunteered to help.
Carroll and a team of experts took a year and a half designing and testing a tail for Winter, eventually settling on a simple silicone and plastic tail. A gel-like sleeve was used under the tail, in order to prevent it from irritating Winter’s skin. In Winter’s case however, both the flukes and the caudal peduncle had been severed, making the task much more difficult.
Lessons learned from Winter also have been applied to human amputees. Carroll used the same gel sleeve concept to ease painful prosthetic limbs for US Air Force Senior Airman Brian Kolfage, who lost both legs and his right hand in a 2004 mortar attack in Iraq.
2011 film adaption
A film based on Winter’s story, titled Dolphin Tale, was released September 23, 2011.The film centers around a young boy who becomes friends with the dolphin, and stars Nathan Gamble, Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Kris Kristofferson.Winter played herself in the film. Several modifications were made to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to accommodate her, including a new 80,000-gallon pool. Portions of the movie were filmed in and around Clearwater. Locations included the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Honeymoon Island, Tarpon Springs, and local news station Bay News 9.