The long life and slow death of a large lobster named Lanny

Few of his kind would live a life like Lanny the Lobster did.

Crustacean became a media star in the spring of 1991

The story of Lanny the Lobster

31 years ago
Duration 1:55
Mike Caudle tells 1st Edition how he came to meet -- and name -- Lanny the Lobster. 1:55

Few of his kind would live a life like Lanny the Lobster did.

The three-foot, 22-pound crustacean lived for decades in the Atlantic Ocean, before he found himself in the clutches of an ocean dragger.

The story of Lanny the Lobster drew media coverage from newspapers, radio and TV back in April 1991. (The National/CBC Archives)

Like many of his kind, Lanny was then shipped west, destined to be served up as someone's dinner.

But then his unique qualities were noticed, his story got out and a decision was made to send him back to the sea.

Sadly for Lanny, he wouldn't live on. But his story did, courtesy of the extensive media treatment it received in the spring of 1991.

He'd been awaiting his fate in Caudle's Catch, a seafood business in Kitchener, Ont.

Seafood wholesaler Mike Caudle had named him after hockey star Lanny McDonald, having noted an apparent resemblance between the retired Calgary Flames captain and the crustacean.

Named for NHL star

The lobster had been named for hockey player Lanny McDonald, shown holding the Stanley Cup in 1989. (Hans Deryk/Canadian Press)

"The length of his antennae, it reminded me of Lanny McDonald's moustache," he told CBC's 1st Edition on April 11 of that year.

Caudle said Lanny had been purchased from a seafood dealer in Toronto and had been in the Kitchener business for about two weeks.

"We brought him back to have him in the store here for some of the customers to see. The school kids and stuff like coming to see something of this size."

Caudle said a local newspaper wrote that Lanny was available for sale.

"We decided before that story broke, we decided we were going to return him to the water," said Caudle.

Why the reprieve?

Because Lanny had lived for so long, Caudle said it was felt he deserved the chance to live out his days at sea.

The plan was to return him to Nova Scotia and to record the moment with an underwater camera.

To 'celebrate or mourn'?

Lanny the Lobster on The National

31 years ago
Duration 1:59
In 1991, a captured lobster named Lanny was brought back to the sea. 1:59

Lanny's return home received continued media attention — including a report on The National on April 19 — though things weren't looking good for the lobster at that point.

Lanny's story caught the attention of many reporters, some of whom covered his return to the sea. (The National/CBC Archives)

By then, no one knew "whether to celebrate or mourn for an old, giant of a crustacean named Lanny," anchor Knowlton Nash told viewers.

"The lobster, who could be anywhere from 50 to 100 years old, was returned to the sea today, after being saved from the steamer by a sympathetic fish dealer."

That part of the story sounded good. But Lanny wasn't doing so well after his long journey home.

"He's very weak, he's gone through quite a bit," said Caudle, who was worried about Lanny's chance of survival.

When put in the water, three kilometres from shore, the lobster's condition wasn't encouraging.

"Freed, 30 metres down in the Atlantic, Lanny doesn't move," the CBC's Brian DuBreuil reported on The National.

On April 20, CBC Nova Scotia reported that Lanny had died.