Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS A sperm whale is seen along the Johnstone Strait northeast of Vancouver Island. Researchers studying the activity of whales off British Columbia’s coast had a rare encounter this week.

Researchers make rare sighting of sperm whale near Alert Bay, B.C.

VANCOUVER — Researchers studying the activity of whales off British Columbia’s coast have had an unusual and “surreal” encounter with a sperm whale.

Jared Towers is part of a Fisheries and Oceans Canada team monitoring the sound of cetaceans and marine mammals using a network of hydrophones in the Johnstone Strait off northeastern Vancouver Island.

Towers said his colleagues at a research station on Hanson Island heard an unusual echolocation and determined on Sunday that the sound didn’t belong to orcas typically found in the area.

“We started inferring that it was a sperm whale and kind of convinced each other that’s what it was,” he said Wednesday.

They sent recordings to other specialists who study sperm whales and had their suspicion confirmed.

Sperm whales are typically found in deep waters offshore, Towers said. Males typically occupy cold waters while females and juveniles frequent waters in the tropics.

Conditions were too rough on Sunday to attempt tracking down the whale but Towers said the water was calm when he headed out with a colleague on Monday.

“I had to sleuth for it,” he said.

Towers used a hydrophone to follow the sound of the whale, which would go quiet while it surfaced, leaving him and the team to wait and watch.

“We had to be patient,” he said. “It was often 30 to 40 minutes between surfacing.”

Towers said his colleague described the experience of spotting the whale as surreal, and he agrees.

“I’ve worked and lived in the area almost my entire life. I spend a lot of days on the water researching whales, that’s what I do, and I’ve never known there to be a sperm whale here before,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to know there is one out there and be fortunate enough to see it.”

A sperm whale was last documented in British Columbia in 1984, and it was only heard, not seen, Towers said.

It’s unclear why the whale came to the strait, but Towers said it could have been looking for a new source of food.

The whale may have been attracted to fish and cephalopods, such as squid, in the area, Towers said, adding it was still there as of Wednesday morning.

The sperm whale’s presence is likely an anomaly and doesn’t indicate significant changes about the environment, Towers said, adding orcas that frequent the waters can be an important sign of health of the ecosystem.

“That’s why I do the work I do,” he said. ”I like to see healthy whale populations out there.”

Just Posted

Looking out for neighbours to fight rural crime

Building community to address crime

Suspect arrested after collision in stolen truck

Driver faces charges in court today

WATCH: From humble beginnings Red Deer-based wrestling promotion is growing

It wasn’t that long ago that Dylon Featherstone and the Canadian Wrestling… Continue reading

WATCH: Families make yo-yos and weaved yarn at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery

It was all about making yo-yos and yarn bombing at Red Deer… Continue reading

WATCH Replay Red Deer Feb. 18: Your weekly news highlights

Watch news from Red Deer and Central Alberta

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

New paramedic team coming to Red Deer

Paramedics provide on-site care tothose with chronic conditions

Toddler breaks leg after boot sucked into escalator at Vancouver airport

VANCOUVER — A Calgary woman is reminding parents about the dangers of… Continue reading

Liberals looking at creating use-it-or-lose-it leave for fathers, Trudeau says

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is raising the idea of creating… Continue reading

Trump gets angry about election meddling, but not at Russia

‘Weirdest thing’: Trump expresses anger, but not over Russian election-meddling

New doping charge could hurt Russia’s chance at reinstatement

Russia could lose its chance to be reinstated before the end of the Winter Olympics because of a doping charge against curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky.

#Metoo movement causing confusion in many men, fear of missteps with women: experts

Being painted by the same sweeping brush as those alleged to have mistreated women has angered men

Virtue and Moir break their own world record

Virtue and Moir break short dance record to sit first in ice dance at Olympics

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month