We are happy to report that hanks to the incredibly enthusiastic and generous support of individuals and businesses in our community, all 156 whale bones have been sponsored. We still have about $8000 left to raise for this project and are looking for support to complete the project, Our staff and volunteers are now hard at work preparing bones for articulation. The Underwater Harvesters Association became the lead sponsor and the articulation will be known as the Underwater Harvesters Association Grey Whale Exhibit. A number of the UHA members also sponsored individual bones! We have been truly overwhelmed by the enthusiasm that has been shown for this project.
After we exhumed the bones and completed the initial cleaning phase (with a power washer, elbow grease and toothbrushes) the bones spent the summer in a storage container on site further drying out.
Recently we moved all the bones up into a lab at the Field Station so that the rest of the process will be visible to visitors. Our next step was to plan the position of whale skeleton within our building. Fitting a 35 foot grey whale in our stairwell was not an easy task. After many measurements and discussions, we decided that the best position would be an upwards breaching position with the skull visible from our main floor.
Lots of tape measures and discussion as we reevaluate just how big the skeleton will be in the space. After much rethinking we are pretty excited.
We are currently drilling holes in the bones to make room for the steel that will hold the skeleton together. Vertebrae are measured, marked and drilled with four initial holes. Mike DeRoos has had to work out how the skeleton will twist in a natural breaching position.
A rectangular piece is then cut out of the bone to make room for the steel column. As of today, all vertebrae have been drilled by our fantastic community volunteers.
Thanks to our amazing volunteers for a great job on the preparation of the bones.
After holes have been cut in the bones, they will be cleaned using a vapour degreaser that our consultants Mike and Michi from Cetacea have been refurbishing on Saltspring Island for bone use. This machine is normally used for high tech stuff like cleaning helicopter engines and will remove any remaining oils from the bones, enabling them to last longer and preventing any unpleasant smells. As you can see in the picture below, whale bones are incredibly porous and oils are trapped in tiny pockets deep within the bones. The bones will be placed in the vapour degreaser above a basin of boiling solvent. This solvent will form a vapour cloud around the bones will cause the oils to drip out of the bones. The photo below is a section of bone removed from inside a vertebra to make room for a steel support beam.
We have quite a few of these bone blocks now. Is there a project here that can create art and respect the whale?
Visit the station and check out the progress for yourself from our viewing mezzanine!