Kasco de-icing equipment helps rescue whalesKasco Marine, a Prescott company manufacturing products promoting healthy water quality in ponds and lakes, was a key participant in “Operation Breakthrough,” the 1988 Alaska whale rescue and basis for the Universal Pictures film “The Big Miracle” which debuted in theaters Feb. 3.
PRESCOTT--Kasco Marine, a Prescott company manufacturing products promoting healthy water quality in ponds and lakes, was a key participant in “Operation Breakthrough,” the 1988 Alaska whale rescue and basis for the Universal Pictures film “The Big Miracle” which debuted in theaters Feb. 3.
The film starring Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Ted Danson and Kristen Bell details the international efforts to free three gray whales trapped in ice at the northern most point of the U.S. near Point Barrow, Alaska.
As the world watched “Operation Breakthrough” unfold through media coverage, it became clear rescue workers were having a difficult time maintaining critical open water and the whales were showing signs of distress. Kasco Marine, a small family-owned Minnesota company with 17 full- and part-time workers, saw this as its opportunity to put its proprietary water circulation technology to work to help keep the whales alive, as they would keep man-made holes in the ice as large as 12 feet by 40 feet clear to allow the whales to surface for air.
“Kasco Marine de-icers were really a game changer in the efforts to save the whales,” said Rick Skluzacek, who traveled to Alaska for the rescue. “We realized that, not only would our machines withstand the subzero temperatures, but the hum of the motor would attract the whales to the holes to allow them to surface for air.”
Kasco Marine contacted the government to offer its support, but was denied. Knowing the magnitude of the situation, the company decided to send Skluzacek and Greg Ferrian with 17 de-icer units to Alaska. Their timing precise, the two spent 10 grueling days working alongside U.S. government officials, marine biologists, Inuit’s and Greenpeace members.
“After just one day of using Kasco de-icers, the whales’ vital signs returned to normal and they eased back into regular diving and blow patterns, and it was at that point that we began leading the whales more than a half mile toward a Russian ice-breaker that brought them to open water,” said Skluzacek.
Following “Operation Breakthrough,” Skluzacek and Ferrian were invited to the White House and presented with a letter of recognition from President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. The Russian ambassador also presented Kasco with a special gift acknowledging the company’s efforts.
Watch for two Minnesotan characters in the movie, Dean Glowacki and Karl Hootkin, who were inspired by Kasco Marine’s Skluzacek and Ferrian.