A whale of a Wisconsin story

PRESCOTT, Wisc. -- A new movie called"Big Miracle" owes its story to a tiny company in Prescott. Kasco Marine was founded on a device that played the key role in the film.

"Big Miracle" by Universal Pictures is based on a 1988 incident in which three whales were trapped under thick arctic ice near Barrow, Alaska. Television coverage of the plight of the giant creatures caught the attention of Minnesotan Greg Ferrian, a representative of the Kasco Marine companyof Prescott.

Ferrian called the authorities in Prescott, offering the use of "Kasco De-Icers" to help get the whales back to open water where they could surface to breathe.

"There were a couple of people that were interested, but the key decision maker was not interested," Ferrian recalled. "He had had too many other ideas that were thrown at him and he just did not want to take the time to listen. That is when I decided to make the play and go up there and show him."

Ferrian and Kasco Rep Rick Skluzacek took a half dozen of the 28 pound de-icers to the northern fringe of the United States.

"The de-icer works by the propeller spinning. The unit is actually sitting a little under the water and it pulls the warm water from the deeper depths and either keeps open water open or it can actually melt existing ice," explained Ray Lee, President of Kasco Marine. "It is constructed of stainless steel. It is important with a lot of our business, but up in Barrow, Alaska, it had to withstand the salt water and so, we have a lot of these in salt water applications."

Ferrian recalled the events that brought their device into play. "The reason we were offered the opportunity to use the machines was it was getting so cold out. The holes (they had dug in the ice) were freezing over. The whales were in desperate trouble and the word came in to us to let the Minnesotans try their de-icers out."

Ferrian and Skluzacek spent 10 days slowly moving the giant creatures from cleared water spot to cleared water spot until they could return to the open sea. Thus, three of Mother Nature's biggest creatures were saved by one of man's smallest creations and one of Wisconsin's smaller companies.

As for the movie's accuracy, Ferrian said parts of it were accurate and parts were not. However, he said he is happy with the final product, which he saw at an advanced screening last week in Washington, D.C.

"I went in with a rather negative attitude and I came out with a smile on my face. I was very impressed," said Ferrian, who keeps a 1988 picture of the whale rescue on his smart phone. Ferrian owns a sales firm in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.

"Big Miracle," starring Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski and Ted Danson opens in theaters nationwide on Friday. It is rated PG.


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