A rare “ghost whale” surfaced near Campbell River this weekend.
Nick Templeman, owner and operator of Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions, encountered the pale orca on Saturday afternoon. It was a first for the longtime wilderness tourism operator.
“It still gives me goosebumps, even as we’re talking,” said Templeman, who is involved in whale identification work and collaborates with a California-based whale researcher.
The albino whale, known as T46B1B, was travelling with a pod of transient mammal-hunting orcas. The elusive white whale was previously spotted near Nanaimo.
Templeman encountered the rare creature in Seymour Narrows, a passage just north of Campbell River with infamously strong tidal currents.
“Everybody was waiting patiently in Campbell River for a sighting, but there was a rather large ebb tide that night,” he said. “The ebb tide was holding them back in Seymour Narrows there, and then they probably passed through Campbell River at night.”
He captured images of the whale using a telephoto lens, and noted that federal regulations require whale watchers to stay 200 metres away from most killer whales on the B.C. coast. A 400-metre approach distance is in place for southern resident killer whales in their critical habitat.