Grey Whale Project – Ready for next phase!

Starting the dig

update: check out our Raise a Whale -Inspire Generations page!

This week was exactly three years from when we buried the carcass of a young grey whale that will eventually be displayed at the Field Station.  Today was a good day as , Bill Pennell and I went back to the Scia’New First Nation in Beecher Bay and conducted a test dig to see whether it was ready to recover.

See CTV’s Video report from the day here. (great story but I can’t embed)

The news was good – our burial and patience worked and we are now ready to recover the skeleton.  The preparation of the skeleton will provide an incredible learning opportunity for students involved in the process.  Once on public display in the atrium of the Field Station, this whale’s legacy will be to help educate and inspire about coastal species for decades to come.  Even with lots of student and community volunteer labour, to do this properly will be an expensive project that we expect will cost $50,000.

Next we need to raise funds and find sponsors to help complete this project.  Can you help?

In the above photo everyone has suddenly backed off and I’m wondering whether I am about to be greeted by a stew of rotting whale. Photo Credit Bill Pennell (with a long lens)

Recovered Phalanges
Phalanges (finger bones) from inside the pectoral fins.  The whale appears to have decomposed down completely and is now ready to be recovered.  We brought these four bones home and reburied the skeleton for now


Flashback 2010 : This is what it looked like when we last saw it on April 10th of 2010.  The phalanges bones that we recovered during the inspection today came from inside the pectoral fin which we wrapped in plastic mesh at the time of burial.


Flashback 2010 : The whale in  shortly after it had washed ashore in Beecher Bay.  You can see where onlookers had been cutting off souvenirs of baleen.


An example of a Grey Whale skeleton on display (Monterey Bay, CA)

Brian and Sharon Cooper

Sharon Cooper (in red) – the one who facilitated this project in 2010 and I sharing a laugh before we open up the dig. Me looking trying to take some precautions by getting all suited up in paper coveralls. fortunately, I did not need to add the respirator and goggles that I had brought after how things were when we buried it.  So glad there was no puking like last time!

Scia'New Elder Randy Chipps

Scia’New Elder Randy Chipps attended and sang a song for the whales spirit before we proceeded.

Andrew Johnson, CTV Treporting

CTV Reporter/Anchor Andrew Johnson came out for the morning and filed a great report. Jason Hallman CTV Cameraman originally brought attention to this project and has stayed in contact to follow along. We really appreciate their interest in helping us tell this story.

It was great to see Sharon Cooper who really made all this come together and her husband Donny Jay (who conveniently owns an excavator company) and continue to work on this project with them.

Afterwards we were able to have a great meeting with Chief and Council of the SCia’New First Nation that was attended by Dr. Ralph Nilson (VIU President) where we were able to talk about our appreciation for the leadership and assistance provided by the Scia’New First Nation and talk about the next stages as this whale completes its final journey.

Want to help out?

To learn how you can support Deep Bay and the future preparation and exhibit of this whale please contact William Litchfield Director Advancement & Alumni Relations, Vancouver Island University 900 Fifth St., Nanaimo, BC, V9R 5S5  | Tel: 250.740.6602 |Fax: 250.740.6491


One Response to “Grey Whale Project – Ready for next phase!”

  1. Lecture Night June 20: Who’s out there? Wild Whales of the BC Coast | VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station Updates Says:

    […] Proceeds from the evening will support our Public Education programs including our very own whale project. […]

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