The albino dolphin captured the imagination of Beaufort County in the 1950s. Her legend grew every time she was spotted in St. Helena Sound.
When the Miami Seaquarium got word of the rare animal that the shrimpers called Snowball, she was captured in 1962 and put on display in the last years of her life. Millions came to see her, and she gained an even wider audience through "Flipper" episodes, Life magazine and news coverage around the world.
Snowball was credited with helping turn America's attention and affection to sea mammals.
Now a life-size replica of the famous albino dolphin will be displayed at the new Port Royal Sound Maritime Center, which is to open soon at the former Lemon Island Marina.
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The replica dates to shortly after Snowball's death in 1965. Kevin Vanacore, who was inspired by Snowball as a child, acquired the neglected replica from the Seaquarium in 2000 and had it restored.
He is allowing it to be on display at the maritime center because of its mission to protect waterways through education and inspiration.
Snowball can once again be an ambassador for marine mammal protection.
When word got out that Snowball was being hunted, the late state Sen. James Waddell of Beaufort quickly got a state law passed that banned the capture of marine mammals and putting them on display. It pertained only to Beaufort County, but it established a beachhead for what remains one of South Carolina's most progressive public policies. Waddell's law -- which the Seaquarium team obeyed by capturing Snowball when she was outside of Beaufort County, swimming in Colleton County waters -- came a decade before the national Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Then in 1992, a new state law prohibited the display of dolphins and porpoises statewide. In 2000, that law was expanded to include all sea mammals, but it was changed in 2011 from "sea mammals" to "cetaceans." The law has been attacked several times by interests seeking a dolphin park or other such displays.
Beaufort County's deep-rooted ethic to protect marine mammals faces a new challenge. The federal government recently approved seismic blasting along the South Carolina seaboard in the search for offshore oil. The sonic cannons will have a negative impact on the hearing of marine mammals who hunt and communicate by sound.
Snowball should stand as a reminder that protecting marine mammals and their habitat is the Beaufort County thing to do as well as the right thing to do. And the effort will take constant vigilance.