Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Like a Cork out of a Bottle': Sam the Killer Whale Rescued from Remote B.C. Bay

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Like a Cork out of a Bottle': Sam the Killer Whale Rescued from Remote B.C. Bay

Article excerpt

Aquarium rescues killer whale off B.C.

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VANCOUVER - Lance Barrett-Lennard is a researcher by trade, so he makes a habit of seeing the world though the rational lens of scientific objectivity.

But there was something about listening to the desperate cries of a juvenile killer whale that had spent at least three weeks stranded in a remote bay off British Columbia's central coast that washed Barrett-Lennard's objectivity away.

"This animal just tore your heart strings," Barrett-Lennard, who runs the Vancouver Aquarium's marine mammal research program, recalled Friday, a day after he and a crew from the federal Fisheries Department rescued the whale and returned it to sea.

"I spent a few nights in the bay and he was calling incessantly, these almost human-like calls and screams. You could really relate to him as a very distressed animal trying desperately, trying to make social contact again."

The killer whale, named Sam, was discovered about three weeks ago by a pair of Fisheries Department researchers who were in the area conducting a whale survey.

The researchers pulled into a bay on Aristazabal Island, located about 550 kilometres northeast of Vancouver,to drop anchor for the night when they noticed the lone whale. They heard the animal's calls throughout the night, but the animal appeared reluctant to leave through the bay's shallow entrance.

That's when they contacted Barrett-Lennard, who arrived about a week later to find Sam in the bay, continuing to call out loudly but still avoiding swimming through the bay's entrance into the open water.

The whale appeared to be in good condition; it was catching seabirds, but was not seen eating any fish. Transient killer whales typically eat marine mammals such as seals and seal lions.

Barrett-Lennard spent several days attempting to coax the whale out by using an underwater speaker to broadcast killer whale calls outside the bay, but the animal appeared too nervous to leave through the relatively shallow, six-metre-deep section of water.

"He seemed to be very interested in leaving -- he'd go right up to the entrance, but he wouldn't cross the threshold," said Barrett-Lennard, who was still in the area and speaking over satellite phone. …

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