A small killer whale found sick and orphaned in a Seattle harbor last January was videotaped this past week with her family near Port Hardy on Canada's Vancouver Island.
The pictures are the first evidence that an unprecedented rescue effort by American and Canadian scientists actually worked. A-73, the orphaned orca found in Seattle, is seen here surrounded by family for the first time.
"[I'm] more than amazed, I guess," said John Nightingale of the Vancouver Aquarium. "I've been a fascinated spectator watching these whales get used to each other, and her reintegration into, into her larger family group."
A-73, the 2-year-old baby orca, spent months alone, far from her family, in the waters off Seattle. Scientists captured the whale, barged her to a holding pen in Canadian waters, and watched in amazement as she began to react wildly to members of her home pod swimming nearby.
"Her calls were so loud they practically blew our headphones off," said Lance Barret-Lennard of the Vancouver Aquarium.
First Successful Reintroduction
Even as the young whale swam near her pod after being released, scientists were unsure if A-73's family would accept her. After decades of effort, scientists have never before successfully reintroduced a whale to its family.
"People told us we were crazy," said Michael Harris of the Orca Conservancy of Friday Harbor, Wash. "They said this can't be done. It's never been done. And we, we proved them wrong."
A-73 now spends most of her time swimming with three older females, including the one scientists have identified as her grandmother. The whale, which became so familiar, is free and wild again. ABCNEWS' Neal Karlinsky contributed to this report.