Keiko the Orca
The beloved orca made a huge splash in 1993 as the star of Free Willy, a movie about a boy who saves an orca from captivity. In Keiko’s case, the story rang all too true; the killer whale had spent most of his life in a variety of aquariums since he was captured as a youngster off the coast of Iceland in 1979. His sad plight in a Mexican aquarium galvanized the movie studio and millions of animal lovers across the globe to raise money to liberate him. In 1996, he was transported—courtesy of UPS—to new digs in Oregon, where he was nursed back to health and rehabilitated so he could be returned to the wild.
Keiko was released off the coast of Iceland in 2002, and eventually took up residence near the Norwegian fishing village of Halsa. In December of the following year, the orca beached himself on the shore and died, probably of pneumonia. Vets estimated he was 26 years old.
Some of Keiko’s caregivers and fans in Halsa used a machine to dig a grave for him and moved his six-ton body over the snow and into it. The site is covered with a cairn of hundreds of stones, some from as far away as Ecuador.