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Keiko arrives in Iceland

Keiko arives September 10, 1998
Web posted at: 6:34 a.m. EDT (1034 GMT)

WESTMAN ISLANDS, Iceland (CNN) -- Keiko, the 10,000-pound killer whale from the "Free Willy" movies, has arrived in Iceland. He was transported there overnight from his previous home in Oregon to be placed in a floating sea pen as big as a football field.

The 21-foot orca was lifted out of his pen at the Oregon Coast Aquarium Wednesday by a special crane and lowered into a customized water-filled box. He was loaded onto an Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo plane, which landed at an airport in the Westman Islands on Thursday morning.


Orca I.Q.: How fast they go and other things to know

Interactive Map: Trace Keiko's travels during captivity

Keikology: How much do you know about Keiko and his deep-water cohorts?

Image Gallery: Up close and personal with the "Free Willy" star


Keiko will spend at least the next several months in the 250-foot-long, 100-foot-wide pen before trainers determine if he can be released into the open sea. It's possible they'll keep him in there for the rest of his life.

Keiko was captured nearly 20 years ago and has lived in captivity ever since, having been moved from Iceland to Canada to Mexico. In 1993, he gained international exposure from the movie "Free Willy," the story of a boy who helps a captured whale escape from an amusement park. The movie was a surprise hit, and Keiko developed a large following, especially among children.

A subsequent Life magazine article pointed out his health problems and the inadequate facility in Mexico City, and a search for a better home began. It resulted in his 1996 move to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where a special pool was built for him. Since then, Keiko has learned how to eat live fish again and has added about 2,000 pounds.

Earlier this year, Keiko was medically cleared and deemed healthy enough for his move back to Iceland.

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