Institute for Marine Mammal Studies remembers Hurricane Katrina

Fifteen years ago, South Mississippians were dealing with the highly catastrophic Hurricane Katrina.

Workers with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies were searching for dolphins washed out to sea during the storm.

“There’s always a silver lining.” Especially when you have a bird’s eye view from a helicopter like Dr. Moby Solangi did as an aerial search was launched for eight bottle-nosed dolphins after Katrina wiped out their home at Marine Life Oceanarium. Dr. Solangi said, “The tidal wave took these animals, swept them away. Then, 13 days later, after we went out in the Sheriff’s helicopter and boats we were able to locate them, literally in the Gulfport Harbor. They were ready to come back home.”

Heartwarming moments caught on camera by Tim Isbell, who was working as a photographer for the Sun Herald at the time. For Isbell, it was more than just capturing the perfect shot. It was a silver lining of sorts for this seasoned photog, weary from the storm at this point in time. “I always said the dolphins were a God-send.  Most of it was depressing, damage, misery. When this assignment came in, they said the dolphins had been found. I was like-me, me, me! I’ll go cover it! I hopped on the boat. My first priority was not to fall off the boat, but the second priority was to get some good pictures of the dolphins.”

IMMS’ mission of conservation and rehabilitation of area marine life continues. “Apollo was a stranded dolphin during the BP oil spill. It was rescued. We brought it here. “

Since Katrina, IMMS workers have rescued more than 1,000 marine life animals and have since moved operations to its new location at Ocean Adventures Marine Park off Cowan Road in Gulfport. As for those Katrina dolphins, they found their silver lining too, more than 700 miles away after being rehabbed. “They were shipped to the Bahamas where they are now. They’ve given birth and they’re fine now.”

“Something as devastating as Katrina, a certain beauty came from it also. The dolphins were beautiful. That probably did untold good for me-just to cover something positive.”

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