VIU'S Buy-A-Bone-To-Raise-A-Whale Campaign sold out

Chuck Chestnut, a retired faculty member in VIU’s Resource Management Officer Training program, drills a hole into a whale bone to make way for a steel rod that will hold the 35-foot skeleton together when it hangs from the ceiling inside VIU’s Deep Bay Marine Field Station. The skeleton will become a permanent educational exhibit to teach future generations about marine science and sustainability in coastal communities.

December 16, 2014 - 4:30pm

Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) innovative ‘buy-a-bone-to-raise-a-whale’ campaign is sold out but public support is still needed to create a permanent educational exhibit at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station.

“We’re ecstatic and truly overwhelmed at the public enthusiasm towards this project,” says Brian Kingzett, Manager of VIU’s Deep Bay Marine Field Station. “All 156 whale bones have been sponsored and we’ve raised $67,000 thanks to the generous support of individuals and businesses in our community.

“Our staff and volunteers are hard at work preparing the final exhibit, but we need to raise another $8,000 to complete it by March. The exhibit will feature a 35-foot grey whale skeleton hanging over the stairwell of the Field Station. It will be the highlight of our marine science public education program.”

If anyone would like to get involved or make a contribution, please contact

Certificates of ‘bone ownership’ signed by VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ralph Nilson are being mailed to all donors who purchased bones and supported the online campaign. Nanaimo dentist Rob Wolanski, a member of the VIU Foundation Board, purchased two lumbar vertebrae and one thoracic vertebrae to show his support for the project.

“I wanted the whale’s jaw bone but it was already sold,” says Wolanski, who works at Vancouver Island Implant Centre in Nanaimo.  “When I heard there were three bones left, I thought why not? I bought them all because I know how hard it is to sell the last few items in any fundraising campaign. I also know how many people have volunteered their time in order to leave a legacy for future generations. This truly is a fantastic project.”

Launched by the VIU Foundation and Deep Bay Marine Field Station last spring, the raise-a-whale campaign received a major boost when the Underwater Harvesters Association (UHA) became a lead donor by making a $10,000 gift to the project.

That donation, plus the purchase of all 23 bones in the whale's tail by Jamie’s Whaling Station of Tofino, pushed the campaign past the half way mark. A host of other donors stepped up, from VIU employees, to retired marine scientists, to community members, who supported the cause by sponsoring bones. 

Kingzett dreamed up the idea of creating a permanent whale skeleton exhibit at the Field Station after the remains of a 20-plus tonne grey whale washed up on the beach in Sooke, at the south end of Vancouver Island in April 2010. 

Together with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, VIU worked in partnership with the Scia'new First Nation to bury the whale on their land in the hopes that it could be used in the future for an educational purpose.

After a four-year decomposition process, the whale skeleton was exhumed last June. The bones were transported to labs at the Field Station, where they were cleaned and dried over the summer. Visitors to the Field Station have been able to watch a consultant and a team of volunteers preparing the bones for the final exhibit.

“It’s combination of science, engineering and art,” explains Kingzett. “Intensive cleaning processes are required and oils must be removed from the bones before they are assembled into a natural looking display. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been drilling holes into the bones because a steel rod will hold the skeleton together when it hangs from the ceiling inside the Station.

“The exhibit will complement what we do, especially in terms of educating the public about sustainability in coastal communities,” adds Kingzett. 

For more information about the project see VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station.



As a key research and marine science education facility for VIU, the Deep Bay Marine Field Station in Bowser is open to the public daily between 10 am and 4 pm. Visitors are invited to take a self-guided tour of the facility and enjoy the stunning views of Baynes Sound in Bowser. Touch tanks and a large public aquaria inside the Field Station teeming with sea life from local waters are a huge attraction. Recognized for its environmentally friendly design features, the award-winning facility is a popular venue for parties, weddings and meetings, school tours and other special events including High Tea by Sea.


Janina Stajic, Manager, Communications & Public Engagement

Vancouver Island University P: 250.740.6599 E: Twitter: @VIUnews

Tags: Teaching and Learning

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