Sperm whale makes a rare appearance off Vancouver Island


WATCH: An extraordinary sighting off Telegraph Cove has whale researchers abuzz. Word is spreading up and down the coast after a sperm whale was spotted. Skye Ryan has this story.

An Alert Bay man who has studied whales in different areas of the world got a rare sight in the waters near home Monday.

Cetologist Jared Towers captured images of an estimated 40-foot-long sperm whale in the west end waters of Johnstone Strait.

“I’ve been in this area as far back as I can remember and I’ve been looking at whales here since I was a kid and I’ve never seen a sperm whale here,” Towers said.

“So it was pretty remarkable to see one in my own backyard for the first time.”

A sperm whale in Johnstone Strait Monday near Alert Bay. Photo courtesy Facebook/Jared Towers.

A sperm whale in Johnstone Strait Monday near Alert Bay. Photo courtesy Facebook/Jared Towers.

Sperm whales are the largest toothed predators and although they are along the outer coast of B.C., they are hardly ever seen.

“This is the first time since 1984 that a sperm whale has been detected acoustically in Johnstone Strait and that’s the only other time that a sperm whale has ever been recorded in this area,” Towers said.

The only other time Towers is aware of a sperm whale inside coastal waters of B.C. is when one was killed by whalers south of Prince Rupert decades ago.

Towers said the acoustic network Orca Lab from Hanson Island has been listening to the sperm whale for the past week.

The whales have a distinct clicking sound used for echolocation and to find food.

With the use of a hydrophone, Towers could anticipate when the sperm whale would surface from the water.

“It would stop clicking for quite a few minutes and after it stopped clicking for three or four minutes, we started really looking hard for it,” Towers said.

“Typically we could find it when it came up to the surface.”

Not only was the sperm whale in the area, Towers says there were five killer whales nearby and he got a good look at two of them.

The killer whales were identified from the T137 transient pod often seen up and down the coast.

Towers felt pretty lucky about his day on his boat in the water.

“The sperm whale was probably 40-feet long, maybe about the same size or a bit bigger than a fully grown humpback whale, such an unusual shape to the animal,” Towers said.

“Being up close to a whale like that on a calm day, no other boats around in Johnstone Straight, was a pretty special feeling.”

Towers posted images on his Facebook page, which has received thousands of views.

Andy NealAndy Neal

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