#VIUWhale Project Update – Patience, Bone Repair and Awesome Volunteers

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We in are in the bone repair phase of our Grey Whale Articulation Project – we’re learning patience and its all about fine detail work at this point as we repair damage to bones from damage that occurred while they were decomposing or being recovered.

Since recovery the bones spent the summer drying, then we cleaned them again, then we opened them up so that they could take articulation support. Its a process and its teaching us patience.
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Drilling out vertebrae
Then the bones made trips to Saltspring Island – where Mike DeRoos had rigged up a Vapour Degreaser to remove residual oils form the bones. Whale bones are porous and they are filled with oil which counteracts the weight of the bones and helps with bouyancy. If you are going to put whole skeleton inside a room for a long time you first have to remove the oils or it will smell….. forever…

To oversimplify Vapour Degreasers create a cloud of very expensive non flammable solvent in a chamber. You then put your expensive material to be cleaned in the middle of the chamber and the oils and grease then are dissolved and drip out. Except typically these are used for things like helicopter engines and there aren’t many around… and the owners are not to keen on letting you fill them up with not so clean whale bones! So Mike DeRoos (www.cetacea.ca) has been working on setting up their own just for cleaning whale bones. Its pretty cool really.
Bleaching Whale Bone
Not a soup stock! Soaking vertebrae in dilute hydrogen peroxide.

That process took a while! And then the bones returned to the Station and we had to let them dry again (more patience). The we soaked the bones in a dilute solution of Hydrogen Peroxide to lighten them up and remove organic staining from the burial. More patience……….. Oh and then we let them dry again (do you see the pattern here?)

Whale Bone Repair Workshop Feb 8,9

But now we are into the detail steps. Bone repair. Turns out the bones are brittle and as the soil settled on them some ribs broke and the “wings” of the vertebrae were damaged, some times a bit, some times a lot. We want to show off the skeleton in as natural a form as possible so the whale team is putting in hundreds of hours very carefully making repairs that will be invisible when the whale is exhibited. We’re mainly working with an epoxy-based sculpting medium to replicate missing boney material and will be carving in foam to replicate larger missing areas.

What follows are a pick of our happy snaps from this process being led by Michi Main and undertaken by student and community volunteers. If you are good with your hands and have good spatial awareness and are interested in getting involved there are still opportunities to volunteer (Call Claire at 250-740-6611)

Whale Bone Repair Workshop Feb 8,9
Whale Bone Repair Workshop Feb 8,9
Whale Bone Repair Workshop Feb 8,9
Whale Bone Repair Workshop Feb 8,9
Whale Bone Repair Workshop Feb 8,9
Whale Bone Repair Workshop Feb 8,9
Whale Bone Repair Workshop Feb 8,9
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Getting ready to set a pin and put a rib back together!

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