West Vancouver residents looking out on Howe Sound over the weekend may have seen 2200-ton steel leviathan emerge from the water just off Anvil Island.
The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Victoria, a hunter-killer/upholder class submarine, surfaced in Howe Sound Friday afternoon as part of a training exercise in the area.
The Victoria was spotted by John Buchanan, caretaker with the Squamish Environmental Society as he made his way down the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
"It was just the freakiest thing. I’ve never seen a submarine before in my life," Buchanan said. "I looked over at Anvil Island and there’s this bloody submarine. This thing is huge, eh?"
Buchanan pulled over to shoot pictures and video of the rare sighting. No one in Buchanan’s circle could remember any other instances of a submarine coming into Howe Sound in the past, he said.
As a conservationist, Buchanan said he has some concerns with military activity in Howe Sound, but not enough to sound a red alert. His reaction was mainly one of "good fun," he said.
"I don’t want them out there every day with their sonar, do I?" he said. "But I don’t know enough about them to know what the environmental consequences of what their manoeuvres may be."
The Department of National Defence purchased the Victoria from the British Government in 1998 but it spent years in dry dock undergoing retrofitting and repairs. It successfully fired its first torpedoes in 2012 and began popping up around the South Coast of British Columbia in 2013.
"When she goes out like this, if it’s not a specific exercise, it’s for training," said Capt. Annie Djiotsa, Royal Canadian Navy spokeswoman, "A lot of members of the public have seen her lately because she was in Howe Sound and she’s been out there doing her thing."