Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Florida Vacation Part 1: Visiting Winter



One of the first things we did while we were in Florida was visit Winter. After seeing the movie "Dolphin Tale" a few weeks ago at a free screening we decided that seeing her and the hospital that helped save her life was a top priority and by all means was my favorite thing that we did on this trip.

Winter lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and has lived there since the night of her rescue nearly six years ago. If you do not know Winter's story of perseverance, faith, and hope, please read more about her here. You can also "meet" winter by watching this really neat virtual field trip from a couple of years ago.

I must admit that I was overwhelmed with emotion when we first arrived at the hospital. Just knowing that we were going to see her up close and personal was so extremely exciting to me. I have just felt such a bond with this animal since I first learned about her. I think my bond with her stems from all that we have been through this past year. I just have a heart for creatures who have had to endure such hardships from such a young age. And poor Winter didn't even have her family of origin around to help support her through her recovery the way that Hunter has.
There were signs from the movie "Dolphin Tale" all through the facility, inside and out. It's pretty clear that they are super proud of the amazing film about their girl!

This sign was neat... it explains Winter's story in full and below the sign...


Was the actual cage in which Winter became entangled which led to the amputation of her tail. Pretty nasty looking huh?


There were lots of fun photo ops throughout the aquarium.


We were able to peek through into the examination room and see the doctors working on a sea turtle.


Lots of objects had a sticker on them that said, "Dolphin Tale Prop". This object was one of them. It seems to be lots of items that would be harmful to Dolphins if dropped into the ocean.
This experience has made the whole "cut your plastic rings from your six packs" thing a lot more personal and real.
Since most of the film was made right there at the marine hospital, it was rather surreal to see something familiar from the movie around every corner.





The marine hospital is, in fact, a nonprofit and relies upon donations and income from ticket sales to continue operating. Throughout the facility there were fun little ways to donate extra spare change.
We were there just in time to watch the dolphin trainers work with Winter and her her friend, Panama. Here is Panama working with an E.D.D. which I believe stood for Educational Developmental Device (but I didn't write it down and I couldn't seem to find the information online). Either way it's a toy!


And this is my favorite photo that I took of Winter.


It was so much fun to watch the dolphins with their trainers.

There were some cameras in the water. They explained that for about three months prior to the filming of the movie, they brought in fake cameras and lights and began to get Winter slowly accustomed to the details of being on the set of a movie. It worked because when it came time to actually film the movie, she was totally fine. There were three animatronic dolphins in the film and it's very difficult to tell which ones aren't real.

The volunteers let us hold Winter's tail. This is her current one... number 17.


We got to see these little sea otters. Aren't they adorable?


And this little play area for them was about the cutest darned things I'd ever seen!


We got to see and touch these sting rays.


Outside of the marine hospital was this house boat.
If you have seen the movie you know that this is where Hazel lived with her dad.
And the basket on top was where she would go to do homeschool work and to talk to her (deceased) mother. It was a very important part of the movie.



Visiting Winter was life changing. I'm so thankful that we all had the chance to go and see her and witness the good work that is being done here at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. If you are in the area, please stop by and see Winter and her friends. You won't regret it.

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1 comment:

  1. How cool that you got to visit Winter's home! Sounds like a wonderful field trip. We really enjoyed learning about Winter through the movie, too.

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