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Buy a bone, raise a whale at Deep Bay Marine Station

Brian Kingzett, Deep Bay Marine Field Station manager, and Claire Vial, public education assistant, with some of the grey whale bones available for purchase. - PHOTO SUBMITTED BY VIU
Brian Kingzett, Deep Bay Marine Field Station manager, and Claire Vial, public education assistant, with some of the grey whale bones available for purchase.
— image credit: PHOTO SUBMITTED BY VIU

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is more than half way to its target of raising $75,000 to raise a grey whale and inspire future generations.

The university launched a 'Buy-a-Bone to Raise a Whale' campaign last March to create a world class skeleton exhibit at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station in Bowser, VIU's key marine science research facility.

"The campaign received a major boost when the Underwater Harvesters Association (UHA) became a lead donor by making a $10,000 gift to the project," said station manager Brian Kingzett. That donation, plus the purchase of all 23 bones in the whale tail by Jamie's Whaling Station of Tofino, pushed the campaign past the half way mark.

"We're thrilled with how quickly the campaign has captured people's imaginations," said  Kingzett. "The grey whale project is already informing and educating people of all ages, which is exactly what the permanent exhibit is meant to do once it's hanging from the ceiling at the (station)."

"The UHA is very excited to be involved in the Raise a Whale project," said UHA president, James Austin. "We have a long association with VIU and the Centre for Shellfish Research... The grey whale exhibit will encourage the public to visit the (station), and while they are there, learn about marine science and the work being done to support a sustainable shellfish industry in BC."

There are still opportunities for the public to get involved with many bones available for as little as $200.

"With more support, we're hoping to reach our fundraising goal, exhume the whale in early June and begin preparing the bones for the permanent educational exhibit," Kingzett said.

The bones come from the remains of a 10-metre long, 20-plus tonne grey whale that washed up on the beach in Sooke, in April 2010. Concerned that it was being treated with disrespect, the Scia'new First Nation worked with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and VIU to bury the whale on their land with hope that it could be used for an educational purpose.

After four years of decomposition, the skeleton is ready to be recovered and prepared for display. Once exhumed, the bones will be taken to a lab at the field station where a team of consultants and volunteers will spend six months cleaning bones and preparing the exhibit.

"Visitors to the field station will be able to see the articulation process as it happens through glass walls in our science labs," Kingzett said. "It's a combination of science, engineering and art. Intensive cleaning processes are required and oils must be removed from the bones before they are assembled into a natural looking display."

They are planning a series of seminars on topics related to the ecology of whales starting in July to further support the project.

Kingzett hopes the whale exhibit will be completed by Christmas, with the 2,000 pound skeleton becoming the highlight of the station's education program. He encourages the public to support the project by buying remaining bones in memory of a loved one, or to leave a legacy for future generations. Contributions over $20 are tax deductible. Visit http://www.viu.ca/whale/ for more information.

— Submitted by VIU

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