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UConn plays a role in pilot whales release (Released: 10/20/99)

by Janice Palmer, Office of University Communications

GROTON, Conn. -- The University of Connecticut's new research ship, the Connecticut and her crew, are assisting the Mystic Aquarium as two rehabilitated pilot whales are returned home to the Atlantic Ocean today, Wednesday, October 20.

The whales will be transported by truck to UConn's Avery Point campus, where they will be loaded onto the Connecticut. Once loaded, the UConn ship is cruising to a point about 20 miles off Block Island, where the whales will be released.

"We're thrilled to be working with Mystic Aquarium in its quest to protect and promote marine life," said Richard Cooper, a marine scientist and director of the UConn Marine Sciences and Technology Center. The University became involved in the whales' release when Cooper offered the use of the research vessel to the aquarium, free of charge.

"As a public institution, not only are we committed to research and education, but we also have a duty to serve the public," he said. "By supporting the aquarium in its mission to save he whales, we're fulfilling our responsibilities, as well as playing a role in the advancement of marine sciences."

The Connecticut is well-designed for this type of assignment. Its wide, open deck provides enough space for the large crates carrying the mammals; the ship's crane has more than enough lift capacity to handle the pair of one-ton whales; and because the vessel sits low in the water, Mystic Aquarium staff devised a method of sliding the whales off the stern to make the release as non-traumatic to the animals as possible.