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By Barry Cameron
January 07, 2022

In 1993, a 6-ton, 35-foot long mammal named KEIKO, became a household word. He was the star of the FREE WILLY movies, a box office bonanza for Warner Brothers Pictures, in which sympathetic humans helped liberate a long-captive killer whale.

Ironically, after Keiko was found ailing in a Mexico City aquarium, a project was started to reintegrate him with a pod of killer whales, which cost over $20 million, captured worldwide interest and created widespread debate. He was rehabilitated at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, then airlifted to Iceland in 1998. There he was prepared for the wild. 

They taught him how to catch live fish in an operation that cost almost $500,000 a month for nearly four years. When he was finally released from Iceland in July of 2002, you know what he did? He swam straight for Norway on an 870-mile trip that seemed to be a search for human companionship.

“The truth is he killed himself by heading back to his comfort zone.”

Millions of dollars were spent trying to teach Keiko how to survive on his own. But, he didn’t bond with the other whales, apparently feared swimming under ice and died less than two years after being freed. In short, he preferred the company and care of humans over life in the wild. Who wouldn’t?

When Keiko returned to Norway, he made his home near the small village of Halsa on Norway’s west coast. According to reports, “During the summers of 2000, 2001, and 2002, Keiko was trained to follow his caretakers’ boats and practice taking open ocean swims. And each summer, he spent several days swimming with wild killer whales to help him adapt to the ocean and meet some of his own kind.” 1


Turns out he craved the comfort of human contact more than the wild he was created for. “Human contact was limited to help him get used to ocean life, and if Keiko approached the tracking boat, the crew went below deck or hid from view.” 2


He would follow the tracking boats rather than stay with the pod of whales and eventually made his way to the bay in Norway where he became lethargic and listless.

His team of caregivers began feeding him up to 175 pounds of fish per day to try to save him. You might be interested to know he was getting handouts right up until the day he died.

The official report says Keiko died of pneumonia. The truth is he killed himself by heading back to his comfort zone instead of launching out into the deep, where God created him to be.

So where do you want to be in 2022? Dead in the water or heading out to catch another wave of God’s best for your life?

© 2022. Barry L. Cameron

1  161385360554578. “Miserable Killer Whale Named Keiko Who Starred in Free Willy & Died Alone.” The US Sun, 6 Oct. 2021, https://www.the-sun.com/news/3803974/heartbreaking-story-killer-whale-keiko-free-willy/.



Senior Pastor

Barry Cameron is a devoted father and husband, bestselling author, dynamic communicator, and Senior Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church. Crossroads has a gorgeous, 150-acre campus in Grand Prairie, Texas. Barry’s latest book, The Road to Financial Freedom, came out in the fall of 2020 and is available on Amazon. It’s another game changer for individuals and families who want to fix their finances once and for all.

Barry and his wife, Janis, have three children: Katie, Matt and Kelli. A daughter-in-law, Lindley and a son-in law, Johnny. They also have two grandsons, Will and Levi. Their family has been completely debt free since November 15, 2001.

Crossroads Christian Church has been debt free since November 9, 2008.