Lucas Nielsen traveled to Tofino in March to meet the heroes who rescued his best friend in Vancouver two years ago.
Nielsen, a ten-year-old Vanderhoof local, visits Vancouver’s Children’s Hospital regularly to receive eye treatments and during one of these visits he met Chester the false killer whale at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Chester was just a baby when he was rescued near Tofino in 2014 and has since made a home at the aquarium.
“He has a great personality, he’s really funny and I just think he’s pretty awesome,” Lucas told the Westerly. “He’s my friend and I’m his friend.”
Lucas’ mother Claire was delighted to see him meet the Parks Canada and DFO team that helped rescue Chester.
“Being so involved in Chester’s story now for the last year, there was just a real piece missing and that was meeting his rescuers and seeing where he was actually found,” Claire said. “It’s really important I think for us to wrap the full circle of the story and see where it first began.”
The Nielsen’s Tofitian experience was organized by Tourism Tofino and Claire said they were treated like “royalty.”
“This has been the most generous and gracious experience,” she said. “It’s everything that I had dreamed it would be, including the incredible weather, so we’re really grateful. It just feels right and every part of it feels like a completion of the story.”
She added Tofino’s landscape provided the perfect backdrop for the emotional experience.
“This rivals anything I’ve ever seen; it’s absolutely stunning here,” she said. “Lucas has said it’s his favourite place in the world that he’s ever been and he’s quite a well traveled little boy so that’s pretty neat.”
She said Lucas’ friendship with Chester was a very special gift from the start.
“[Chester] was smiling at him and following him around and sharing food with him and chirping at him; it was very obvious that Chester recognized Lucas and Lucas said to me ‘Chester’s my best friend here in Vancouver,” she said.
“That was a really big thing for me to see. My son really needed a friend…and to make friends with this marine mammal, who is like a big dog, was really very special. It’s sweet and every mom wants their child to be able to have friends.”
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne was thrilled to meet Lucas and learn about his connection with Chester.
“This is something that makes Tofino really special and unique amongst tourism destinations. It’s more than just a place to be entertained or have a good time; it’s somewhere you can really feel connected to nature,” she said.
Lucas and Chester
Earlier this spring, Lucas presented to close to 30 Vancouver Aquarium staff his research on Chester and was invited onto the deck to feed the false killer whale.
For him, the species should be named Amicus Delphinus, or friendly dolphin, instead.
“I want them to have their own name, and not named after a species that they are not,” Lucas said, adding that he would like to become a marine biologist one day. “I just like working with water-based animals.”
It was a presentation that brought Nicole Cann, the aquarium’s manager of interpretive delivery, to tears, she said.
“Seeing this child become so inspired about aquatic life because of his relationship with one animal that he wants to come in and show us how much he’s learned and how much what we do matters to him,” Cann said. “It is a very emotional, powerful reminder why we come to work everyday.”
– with files from Andrew Bailey, Tofino Westerly News