Updated: Mar 3
The beloved whale that kept British Columbians looking out for her for over 20 years.
"Vancouver Island's Celebrity Whale"
Clip: Nanaimo Daily News (1947)
In the summer of 1946, a small and unusual pod of killer whales made their first appearance at Race Rocks just off the tip of south Vancouver Island. What separated them from all the others was that the lady of the pod was pure white from nose to fin to fin to fin. Named Alice by the local media, she was 13 feet long and was often sighted with 3 much larger male orcas. For years, these unusual suspects circled Vancouver Island, sometimes twice in one summer. Sightings of the rare pod were recorded at Port Hardy, Victoria, Galiano Island, Tofino, Campbell River, Salt Spring Island and everywhere in between. Islanders came to love their albino whale Alice who had become one of the greatest pacific marine celebrities of the time (second only to Caddy the Cadborosaurus). For twenty years, Alice and her pod circled Vancouver Island and often put on a show for anyone willing to watch.
"Alice and Her Pod 'Performing' at Harling Point Near Victoria, British Columbia"
Photo Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1958)
Photographer: T.L. Sinclair
On January 19th, 1958, Alice and her pod came around Harling Point in Oak Bay just east of Victoria. They swam so close to shore that they surprised several people who happened to be in the area. Soon a crowd of almost 60 onlookers gathered at the point and watched with excitement as the pod delivered their most spectacular performance. For nearly three hours, the pod jumped, swirled and even came in as close as 10 feet from shore where they paused as if to look up at the crowd as they cheered and clapped for more. For those who saw it, it was a show they'd never forget.
"Alice Goes Missing"
Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1969)
In 1965, Alice seemed to have disappeared. Sightings of a white orca with a black dorsal fin were reported as Alice in the media, but it wasn't her. Newspapers said Russian whaling ships caught a white orca in their nets off the coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands, but its size and description did not match Alice. The Canadian Coast Guard later confirmed that Russian whaling ships were not in the area at the time. In 1969, after several reports of possible sightings, Alice and her pod finally appeared just off William Head, not far from where her pod was first sighted over two decades earlier. It would be the last reported sighting of Vancouver Island's beloved albino whale.
Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1970)
Photographer: Bill Halkett
The following year in 1970, an albino whale and her four black companions were captured at Pedder Bay just east of Race Rocks, where Alice's first and last sighting was reported. Scientists assured the public that it was not Alice who they had captured and wondered if the young white whale was perhaps Alice's daughter. She was given the name Chimo and lasted only two years in captivity. After more than twenty years and the whole world reporting on her sightings, Alice was never seen again.