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Saving Sam: A rescue story

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Sam (T046C2) Chronology  


Sam (T046C2) was born to T046C, a member of the T46 group from the Bigg's killer whale population. 


Sam (T046C2) was seen with his mother T046C and brother T046C1. This was the last time the family was seen before Sam was found alone in 2013.

July 23, 2013

Graeme Ellis and Dr. John Ford discover a lone killer whale in a remote bay off Aristazabal Island on the BC central coast. They spent the night in Bent Harbour with the young whale and name it Sam. Ellis and Ford were not able to get decent ID photos to identify the whale, but determined it was a Bigg's whale from the calls it made.

Aug. 1, 2013

Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard visits Bent Harbour and discovers that Sam is still there. Sam is calling loudly and frequently, and does not appear to be eating, but otherwise still looks in good condition.

Aug. 1-5, 2013

Barrett-Lennard stays in Bent Harbour to observe Sam. He takes identification photographs and records the whale's vocalizations. Barrett-Lennard attempts to draw Sam out of the bay by playing Bigg's whale calls to him/her underwater.  Sam is excited by the calls but will not leave the bay.  It becomes evident that s/he is psychologically trapped.

Aug. 5,  2013

Jared Towers identifies Sam as T046C2 from Barrett-Lennard's photographs.

Aug. 10, 2002 

Barrett-Lennard returns to Bent Harbour to check on Sam.  Barrett-Lennard discovers that he can now see a depression behind Sam's blow hole - a sign that Sam is getting dehydrated from not eating enough. Sam's condition is deteriorating. 

Aug. 14, 2013 

Barrett-Lennard and research assistant Meghan Moore on the Skana join up with John Ford and the DFO Cetacean Research Team on the Achiever to discuss the best plan of action for Sam. The decision is made to try and move Sam out of the bay the next day.

Aug. 15, 2013 

Killer whales are notoriously reluctant to pass under unfamiliar floating objects, so the Achiever towed a long floating line crosswise between two inflatable boats, gently herding Sam towards the mouth of the bay. When Sam got there the Skana, floating just outside the mouth, played Bigg's killer whale calls through an underwater speaker.  The operation worked flawlessly on first try and Sam shot through the entrance, porpoising once beside the Skana before heading out to sea.

Aug. 15, 2013

Later that evening Barrett-Lennard and Moore head out on the Skana around the southern end of Aristazabal Island.  They see a group of 2-3 Bigg's killer whales but they were acting fairly criptic. Then they hear Sam on the hydrophone.  The next time the whales surface Sam is paralleling them from about 100m.  A good sign that were investigating each other.  Unfortunately the weather was poor and it was getting late so the researchers lost sight of the whales after that.

Aug. 31 & Sept. 3, 2013 

Sam is spotted in Clio Channel, northern Johnstone Strait area, about 150miles south of Bent Harbour. He is still alone but in an area where his family has been seen before at that time of year and where food is plentiful.


Sept. 26, 2013

Sam is spotted again in Knight Inlet but this time he wasn't alone. Sam was traveling with the T123 group. T123 is thought to be Sam's aunt. Sam's condition seems to have improved and the depression behind his blow hole is no longer visible.  Unfortunately Sam did not stay with the T123 group and the next few times the T123 group was seen, Sam was not with them.


Oct. 19 & 26, 2013 

Sam's mother, T46C, and brother, T46C1, are seen off southern Vancouver Island. This is the first time the T46C group has been seen in two years and provides confirmation that they are alive.  Sam was not with them yet.






Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard




Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard




Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard




Photo: Meghan Moore




Photo: Meghan Moore



Photo: Robert Michaud