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A whale of a project nearing completion

Brian Kingzett, top left, checks out the exhumation of the grey whale buried on Scia’new Nation territory in East Sooke - Pirjo Raits
Brian Kingzett, top left, checks out the exhumation of the grey whale buried on Scia’new Nation territory in East Sooke
— image credit: Pirjo Raits

For the past four years a 20-tonne grey whale has been decomposing in the ground on the Scia’new Nation territory. It came to rest there after band member Sharon Cooper felt the dead whale, which was found in East Sooke, was being disrespected by people who came to view the carcass.

“People carved their initials in it,” she said.

The idea was to articulate the whale and then reassemble the bones for display at the  University of Vancouver Island’s Deep Bay Field Station. Donations made the work possible.

On June 8, volunteers and students dug up the whale carcass and began moving, cleaning and cataloguing the bones.

“We are way ahead of schedule,” said biologist Brian Kingzett, from the field station. “We dug down and found out it decomposed way better than expected.”

Kingzett said the bones are in really good shape.

“Everybody is having a lot of fun too,” he said. “Everybody just dove in. It is such an enthusiastic volunteer group.”

He said many of the volunteers are those who donated to the bone project. One volunteer was a retired pediatric radiologist who was helping catalogue the vertebrae.

Sharon Cooper said it broke her heart to see the dead whale four years ago and she started the project to remove and honour the whale.

“He got his honour back. It’s overwhelming,” she said as she watched the bones being taken out of the ground. Cooper will take some of the rich soil from the site to put onto her blueberry bushes.

The whale will be put into a natural characteristic diving position and hang suspended above a staircase at the Deep Bay Field Station just outside of Bowser.

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