Two months after the beloved “Dolphin Tale” star died, Winter the Dolphin has officially made her return to the sea.
The famous Atlantic bottlenose dolphin’s ashes, encased in a Himalayan sea salt urn, were released Thursday into the Gulf of Mexico. Her Clearwater Marine Aquarium animal care staff took part in the emotional release aboard a U.S. Coast Guard response boat.
“Being able to return Winter to her natural home was the best feeling in the world,” said VP of Zoological Care Kelly Martin. “Our goal at Clearwater Marine Aquarium is always to rehabilitate rescued marine life so they can return to the wild. In Winter’s case, as is the case with all non-releasable animals, she unfortunately could not complete her return to the wild in life. But today, we were able to give her that final step – a return home.”
The ceremony-at-sea honoring the 16-year-old dolphin’s life included a C-130 flyover and a poem reading before Martin and Veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt released Winter’s ashes.
“Flower petals of roses and orchids were released into the Gulf and the team blew bubbles, honoring one of Winter’s favorite enrichment activities,” a press release reads.