Tale behind the whale at Sooke school premieres June 10

The whale skeleton, high above the floor at EMCS in Sooke. (Contributed - Phoebe Dunbar)

The intriguing tale behind the whale skeleton that floats above the lobby at Edward Milne Community School is set to make its first official splash.

Tale of the Whale, which premieres in EMCS Community Theatre on June 10 at 7 p.m., explores the story of how a group of volunteers led by Phoebe Dunbar rallied to salvage, flense (slice the skin or fat from a whale carcass), preserve and then raise the articulated skeleton of a gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) into the rafters at the school in 1996.

The story unfolds through footage shot at a dozen locations around Sooke, and through interviews with a wide range of participants in the project through the lens of Frank Antonsen and his collaborators.

It’s a colourful saga of crazy coincidence, charismatic personalities, unexpected generosity and “truly stinking working conditions,” organizers of the premiere noted in a media release. The skeleton continues to spark wonder, curiosity and queries from people when they see it peacefully hanging above the school’s lobby.

Tale of a Whale seeks to answer those questions while capturing the memories and stories of many of the people involved in the project.

Triggered by the discovery of the carcass of the juvenile gray whale carcass at Beechy Head in East Sooke Park in Jun 1989, the project brought Indigenous and settler communities closer together in sparking the rich tradition of community learning at EMCS.

Those who wish to attend must reserve their seats in advance at


Admission is at the door, with a suggested donation of $20.

A pre-film social gathering will take place between 6 and 7 p.m., with appetizers donated by Western Foods and prepared by EMCS culinary arts students, and salmon donated by the T’Sou-ke Nation.

Proceeds from the event will go toward further development of the school’s food garden founded by the late Pia Carroll, and managed today by students under the direction of EMCS Society Food Garden co-ordinator Matthew Kemshaw.


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Phoebe Dunbar flense a gray whale in East Sooke. (Contributed - Phoebe Dunbar)