Volunteers from all over Vancouver Island

Whales bones dug up in Sooke, transported to Deep Bay

More than 150 bones were transported to Deep Bay's VIU Field Marine Station

A 20-tonne grey whale, decomposing in Sooke for the last four years, was finally unearthed.

On June 8, a small group of volunteers headed to the Scia’new Nation (Beecher Bay) land where more than 150 bones were articulated, measured and rinsed. The bones have since been transported to the VIU Deep Bay Field Marine Station.

The skeleton of the whale will be reassembled later this year to hang like a chandelier above the station’s stairwell as a centre piece for marine education. It will weigh nearly 2,000 pounds.

For Brian Kingzett, June 8 marked “a milestone” in a project he has been working on for nearly half a decade.

“This is certainly the craziest project I have ever undertaken,” said Kingzett, manager of the marine station who has been spearheading The Whale Project since the beginning. “Digging up whales isn’t exactly something you get experience doing.”

Kingzett said because the whale has been underground for the last four years, he had no idea what to expect until the team of volunteers started digging.

“Over the last few years I’ve heard countless horror stories about digging up (decomposed) animals only to find a pool of acid or mush,” he told The NEWS from the sacred First Nations ground where the whale was buried.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect but all the bones are in great condition,” he said with a sigh of relief, overlooking the site where volunteers clad in rubber boots carefully uncovered bone after bone of the whale like an archaeological treasure hunt.

Scia’new First Nation member Sharon Cooper called the day “emotional.”

Cooper was the first to see the grey whale washed up on the shore of East Sooke Park in 2010. She said within one week the young whale was disrespected by passerbys carving their initials into its body and taking pieces of the deceased animal home as a souvenir.

“It made me sick,” she recalled.

It was shortly afterwards that Cooper and Kingzett teamed up with a plan to protect the whale by burying it, letting it decompose, digging it back up and using the bones for education about marine biology and First Nations culture.

Cooper blessed the site with sacred water before volunteers began digging their way to the whale on June 8.

“I’m so overwhelmed,” she said, holding back tears. “The magnitude of what we’re doing is huge.”

Cooper said watching how carefully each volunteer handled the bones was “just amazing.” She said the project gives the whale “the honour he deserves.”

Scia’new First Nation has made an agreement with VIU that they will retain ownership of the whale, however, it will be on permanent display at the marine station.

According to Kingzett, the volunteers who came to Sooke for what he called “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” were people close to the project including marine station staff, VIU students and professors, media, a retired radiologist and a Qualicum Beach couple who sponsored the whale’s skull by donating $5,000 to the project.

Organizers have taken a unique approach to raising the $75,000 needed to bring the project to fruition — instead of looking for big grants and donations, they put the call out for people to sponsor individual bones of the whale in an effort to allow people to feel more connected to the project. Bones vary in price with the two jaw bones priced at $2,500, the sternum at $400 and each of the ten phalanges at $200. There are still bones left for sponsorship.

Kingzett said $55,000 has been raised so far. While he said the bones still have a major cleaning process to undergo, he thinks the skeleton could be hanging by this December.

To follow to the progress of the Whale Project visit www2.viu.ca/deepbay/whale/. For more information or to make a donation, contact 250-740-6611 or e-mail deepbay@viu.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘100 Oceanside Men Who Give a Damn’ donates $9,500 to hospice society

OHS provides services free of charge to palliative clients and their families

Parksville man arrested after stabbing incident at makeshift camp near city mall

Oceanside RCMP report 28-year-old man taken into custody without incident

Parksville runner ready to raise funds for charity

Watson to run half-marathon with daughter Lauren

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

B.C. announces multi-year plan to double treatment beds for youth with addiction

This will bring the total number of new beds specific to those 12 to 24 years old to 247 province-wide

B.C. man who nearly died from COVID-19 reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breathe

Cowichan’s Dillabaugh checks in from the NHL bubble in Toronto

Flyers’ Duncan-born goalie coach weighs in on hockey restart

Wedding party bear sprayed at Okanagan campsite irks locals

Latest criminal activity at the Meadows leaves locals frustrated

Paramedics fired for allowing patient to crawl for treatment on Downtown Eastside: court documents

The man spent three days in intensive care and three months recovering in hospital from sepsis

Feds seeking private consultant to design firearm buyback program

The ban covers some 1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style weapons

Face masks for teachers can impact learning on young children, experts say

Face coverings, mandatory in most indoor public places across the province, can help limit the spread of COVID-19

Most Read