RaceRocks.com
Videocams Ecosystems History First nations Sponsors
Management Home

Eschristius robusta

GRAY WHALE
Tidal Energy Project
Weather
Live Video
Archives
Technology
This information is provided in a display case at Lester B. Pearson College in Victoria, British Columbia Canada, next to a 13 meter (42 ft) mounted skeleton of a gray whale.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In November 1990 the faculty and students of Lester B. Pearson College heard that a dead whale was floating off Beechey Head in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was decided to tow it back to Pedder Bay, so after two afternoons of towing by the college dive boat, UbaTuba, it arrived at the small beach inside of Weir Point. It looked like it would be an easy task to extract the skeleton for a mount at the college. .

Early on a Saturday morning a group of determined people, Kalle Kronholm, Chris May, Brian Heard, Shawn Steil, Patrick Decowski, Jacob Breugem, Brian Poston, Luis Marcano ,and Rosy Mackintosh along with biology faculty member Garry Fletcher and his son Alex and two volunteer students from the Biology Department of the University of Victoria, proceeded to attempt to remove the flesh Kalle Kronholm flensing the whale.
It was almost an impossible task. The knives we used became dull immediately, and the smell was incredible. The mature adult female had been dead for about a week. Very little of the outer skin had been disturbed. There were numerous whale barnacles and whale lice (actually amphipods) still alive and anchored to various spots around the fins. Samples of these are preserved in this display. The chunks of blubber 15-25 cm. in thickness. Once removed, they were scavenged within a few days by the gulls, crabs and eagles. We finally had to abandon the effort, after removing most of the soft parts of the right side of the animal and the right pectoral fin.

We anchored the carcass in a small bay closer to the college, and tried to weight it down with concrete buckets. 1000 kgs would not sink it so it was tethered and left there. Over Christmas it broke loose from it's mooring in a storm and ended up further down the bay at Weir Point. It had however dropped it's baleen intact where it had been tethered. These were later recovered by the divers and dried for the display here.

From this final resting place on shore over the next two months, we removed bones as they became free by decomposition. We found that any piece touching the bottom would be cleaned rather quickly, and if it wasn't removed soon after, it became blackened by the contact with the mud, probably from hydrogen sulfide build-up from anaerobic bacteria. You can still see a number of darkened areas that were produced in this way and would not clean.
Some of the smaller vertebrae near the tail had dropped off with the baleen and had to be retrieved after some searching by the divers. Many pieces such as the tail vertebrae were taken back to the docks and tied together for the final decomposition on the bottom. Even after retrieving the bones to the docks, they had to sit for some time and many students helped in the slow and arduous task of removing the last bits of connective tissues that clung to the bones. While the decomposing remains were anchored to the shore, two large vertebrae were removed by some fishermen. They were traced and eventually recovered but they show up now as slightly yellowed and cleaner. (Probably from the bleach used to clean them.)
displayThe display on the wall next to the whale skeleton at Lester Pearson College. The two sides of the baleen plates are shown mounted here. boneThe hyoid bones of the lower neck region are not attached to the skeleton. They are displayed here in the case.

MOULDING LOST PARTS

Gary Stonely of Nanaimo,a vertebrate zoologist who had worked on other large skeletons, vertebrae moldwas commissioned in the fall of 1991 to work with our students once a week in the final stages of skeletal preparation. He showed the students how to mould the missing pieces. Shown here are the rubber moulds and the plaster of paris mould-holders, and the clay replicas made for moulding the missing tail vertebrae.



The Fiberglass finger bone on the left hand was made from the one on the right hand. This task took some time as the liquid rubber had to be painted on in many layers, each being allowed to dry. The final results are visible as slightly white looking fiberglass replacements on the skeleton. The largest bone that we lost was in the neck region. A concrete replacement was made for it from the clay replica moulded by Siegmar Zacharias . At this time Sylvia Roach became the faculty contact for the group of six students working on the whale as an activity. The work progressed slowly during the fall as the process of getting all the bones cleaned and then sealed was a demanding one. In the second term, two students, Jody Snowden and Becky Macoun persisted and contributed many hours of time to see it through the final stages of mounting. They also assisted Gary Stonely with the welding, cutting, polishing and painting of the metal parts.

Our former administrator, the late John Davis was instrumental in promoting the project. In addition to taking the photographs in the display case, he was responsible for securing a grant of $5000 from the Ministry of Advanced Education of the Province of British Columbia to enable us to complete the project.

barnacle
Two species of Arthropod lived parasitically on the whale's skin. The Gray Whale barnacle, Cryptolepas rachianecti

Also, The Gray Whale Lice Cyamus kessleri was also located on the skin.

alex
skull
See this file for The finished whale skeleton on the campus of Lester Pearson College. INGI FINNSON (PC-Year 25) took this series of close up photos for a project being done by a scientific artist

Back to
The Race Rocks Taxonomy
racerocks.com home page
Sitemap Contact
webmaster:
Garry Fletcher
Copyright