Grey Whale Articulation Update – entering the final phases!

Thoracic region in progress

For the first time after exhumation more than a year ago we are starting to see the Grey Whale coming back together – thanks to the awesome work of our Cetacea Contracting, our team of volunteers, and our generous sponsors.  What will be known as the Underwater Harvesters Association Grey Whale Exhibit is getting closer to completion and we’re excited to share photos of the process!IMG_5989

After much planning and measurement the final position was calculated.  Breaching up from the mezzanine level into the air on it’s side with one flipper up in the air.

Photo credit Wildscreen arkive.

This is a characteristic breach pose of a Grey Whale.  Back on Saltspring Island, Mike DeRoos and crew built a sophisticated steel framework in complex curves to support the natural curve of the vertebrae.

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This frame incorporated steel tubes to support the ribs.  This meant cutting each thoracic vertebrae in half and then reassembling around the frame.

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Once again everything was disassembled and returned to Deep Bay.  Where the crew then assembled the frame with a few ribs and a mock-up to represent the skull.  AND HUNG IT IN PLACE!!!!.  Ok this was pretty exciting, even more so as we actually realized it was going to fit.  Just! , but still…… not saying we were nervous…. but….

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With the framework in place it was then adjusted and the hanging points determined.  This was then all reviewed by Herold Engineering to make sure it would be safe within the building.

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Meanwhile down in the labs, aluminum frames meticulously built by Mike were used to build to flipper assemblies, a process that has taken weeks of volunteer work:

Flipper assembly

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Flipper in progress

Foam was carefully carved to provide a base for epoxy used to simulate the cartilage that connects the carpals (palm) and phalanges (finger bones) of the flippers.  Yes, whales have fingers!  Their ancestors once walked on land.

Almost finished flipper

Almost finished assembly awaiting final painting.

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Last week all the vertebrae were permanently attached to the steel frame.  In the above photo are the Lumbar vertebrae, behind the thoracic (rib) cavity and the caudal (tail) vertebrae.  This photo really shows how long this is and the natural shape the display will take.  Jamie’s Whaling Station sponsored all the caudal vertebrae!

Rib attachment detail

Thoracic vertebrae were permanently mounted and hinged pins were mounted to mate ribs which had been carefully carved open to accept a steel internal supporting structure.

Neck region

Note the neck vertebrae and how fused they are!

Gord Kurbis from CTV News came and did an update – you can see it here (can’t embed).  You can also see all our photos documenting this project here.

Excited about this project as much as we are?  All the individual bone sponsorships are spoken for but there are still opportunities to become a sponsor of this project.  Contact us to find how you can help this project become a reality,  We are also still looking for volunteers for this project – see this post

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