Sunday, 30 March 2014

Morgan at WhaleFest 2014

And so after the excitement, passion and euphoria of the release of the life-sized inflatable Orca called Morgan, our little Morgan was off to WhaleFest 2014.

The world’s biggest festival celebrating whales and dolphins, this year’s event was raising money for the World Cetacean Alliance and the Long Swim to Freedom campaign raising awareness of Morgan the Orca held in Loro Parque and the fight to save the Maui’s dolphins.

Never had our little Morgan been somewhere with so many people who are as passionate about whales and dolphins as she is. There was virtual whale watching, where you could actually go whale watching in the Azores without even leaving the Hilton Hotel! There was a submarine experience that took you underwater around the world. Experts and artefacts let you get up close to bones, skulls, plankton and even a real narwhal tusk! An inflatable life-sized humpback whale, based on a real humpback whale named Nile that lives off the coast of the USA which you could actually go inside! Face painting, crafts, activity books, stories read by the authors, shark activities and informative short talks in spouting off…

Nile the life-sized inflatable humpback whale

On an incredible main stage with a screen big enough to fill a house, experts gave inspiring talks on whales and dolphins; from orca researcher and champion of the ‘Free Morgan’ campaign Dr Ingrid Visser, orca captivity expert Dr Naomi Rose, ex-SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg, champion of New Zealand’s Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins Dr Barbara Maas to Will Travers and Virginia McKenna from the Born Free Foundation. Alongside these were style Guru Gok Wan, Miranda Krestovnikoff from the One Show, Rob Piley producer of the recent BBC Spy in the Pod, and his spy-cams, the very popular Steve Backshall from the BBC’s Deadly 60 and an incredible traditional Maori haka from Ngāti Rānana.

BBC's Spy in the Pod on the WhaleFest Main Stage

Surrounding all these going’s on, intermixed with all the activity, bustle and fun were exhibitor stands of whale watching companies, charities and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) from around the world. From Canada, to the Azores, to Antarctica there were glossy brochures, beautiful pictures and stunning videos. Charities like the Free Morgan Foundation, NABU International (with their focus on Maui’s dolphins), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Born Free Foundation, to UK based ones like Sea Watch Foundation and ORCA. There were representatives from the WCA and Whale Watch International, a global partnership of responsible whale watching companies.

From the issues of bycatch to plastics in our ocean and everything in between WhaleFest truly was a celebration and a success with over £10,000 raised for the WCA and the Long Swim to Freedom campaign.

And then when it felt like things could not get any better there was the cake. But not just any cake, a choccywoccydodah cake! With thick layers of white chocolate moulded into the shape of a whale, orca and dolphin. It was simply delicious and bets of all the most important people of WhaleFest got to eat it. The volunteers. 

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Friday, 21 March 2014

Launch and Release

And so here we are, WhaleFest 2014 had arrived. The world’s largest festival celebrating whales and dolphins and in its third year WhaleFest is raising funds and awareness for the World Cetacean Alliance and the Long Swim to Freedom campaign. This campaign features the issue of freeing the Orca Morgan from captivity and saving the last 50 Maui’s dolphin – New Zealand’s critically endangered endemic dolphin.

But WhaleFest 2014 was also the launch of Follow Free Morgan, the start of our little Orca Morgan’s adventures around the world celebrating wild whales and dolphins and raising awareness of the work of the World Cetacean Alliance. What better place to launch Follow Free Morgan’s adventures then at WhaleFest!

And what better way to launch WhaleFest 2014 and its support for the Long Swim to Freedom campaign then by releasing an Orca into the sea. Just as we have all been campaigning for and hoping for, not only for Morgan but for all the other Orca’s held in captivity. Of course no matter how we may wish it the logistics of releasing a real Orca into the sea off Brighton may be pushing it but who says it has to be real to make an impact!?

Our little Morgan, and the inflatable life-sized Morgan on Brighton beach

So that’s what the amazing people at WhaleFest did. Through the mist and fog of a cool evening a life sized inflatable Orca, also named Morgan, was lifted over the railings from the promenade onto the pebbles of Brighton beach. Amongst crowds of people, waving plaques with Free Morgan and Save the Whales, wearing Orca and shark costumes, shouting and cheering, Morgan was carried down the beach and into the steely blue waters. There she was delivered to the rescue boats of British Divers Marine Life Rescue (the charity that actually rescues stranded whales and dolphins around the British coast) by non other than world renowned Orca researcher and advocate for Morgan, Dr. Ingrid Visser. To the tumultuous applause of the watching crowd our Morgan was set free.

Morgan is carried to the water
Dr Ingrid Visser leads Morgan to the BDMLR boats

And Follow Free Morgan was there. The buzz was electric, the excitement palpable. Once again one felt part of something big, part of a movement that is ultimately changing the world.

Of course the Orca was brought back to shore but the message was simple. Free Morgan.

And so welcome to the blog of Follow Free Morgan… Check out the gallery below for more photos of our little Morgan at the launch of WhaleFest 2014 and the release of an Orca into the sea at Brighton

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