People are always captivated by the work we do. To be honest, we're captivated too, it is incredibly interesting. I have to admit though that I often avoid answering the "and what do you do for work?" question if I know that I have limited time. "Oh, you know, a little of this and that..."
Invariably, after the initial question, we can expect a puzzled if not bewildered look. And the conversation that follows from the "and what does that mean exactly?" question will be followed again and again by all kinds of "you actually do that? And someone pays you for that? How in the world did you get into that?..."
Recently, Glen Schaefer from the Vancouver Sun came over here because he wanted to see for himself what we do and I think he captured the essence of it pretty well.
So I thought I'd share the article and video he produced for any of you who might also be wondering what on earth we've been up to over here...
Check out "It's a whale of a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it."
Mike has just returned from a preliminary consulting trip to London, England. In 2017, Cetacea Contracting will be part of the team that has been hired to re-articulate the 100-year old blue whale skeleton at the London Natural History Museum! Conservators have been working for over a year to clean and prepare the bones. Once the skeleton is ready, Mike and George Hudson will be helping the internationally renowned team from RCI (Research Casting International) to design and fabricate a new custom armature that will see the skeleton brought to life in Hintze Hall, the main gallery space of the museum.
Last week, Mike was asked to visit the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, BC, to help bring life to the skeleton of A9 which had been on display at the aquarium but wasn't creating as much of a stir as a skeleton such as hers should have. Together with a group of core volunteers from the aquarium, A9 was moved, her flippers were re-articulated for anatomical accuracy then repositioned along with her skull. An interpretive dorsal fin and tail fluke were also fabricated to complete the display. Now, as visitors walk through the aquarium, A9 swims toward them as she would have moved in life.
Earlier this month, a young adult male transient killer whale named L95 was found floating offshore near Tahsis and was towed into harbour. With amazing support from the town of Tahsis and funding from the Royal Ontario Museum, we were able to recover his skeleton. A necropsy was conducted but cause of death remains unknown. Once transported to our island, our keen volunteer, Ashley, came over for the morning to help prepare the whale's remains for composting burial. The ROM has contributed one of his teeth for a new Fisheries study on methods to accurately age killer whales and his skeleton is destined for display in a planned future exhibit at the museum.
This was a fun little winter project for Mike. He designed a custom wheeled skull dolly to transport and protect the humpback skull that we had collected for the Royal BC Museum from Whitepine Cove, Tofino, in 2014. It's now safely accessioned at the RBCM. (Yes, that's the workshop we're building - it's coming along!)
On Dec 4, 2015, southern resident J32 (Rhapsody) was found on a beach near Comox, BC. She was pregnant with a full-term foetus and initial observations indicate she may have died of infection. The death of J32 is a huge loss to the struggling SRKW population and especially tragic to lose this first-born calf as well. We collected the remains of her skeleton and that of her calf on behalf of the Royal BC Museum and with huge backing from the local community. These skeletons will be held at the Royal BC Museum and will be available for future research and education.
This fall we were asked by the Beaty Museum to come back and have a close look at the massive blue whale skeleton we had prepared, articulated and installed five years ago (see our blue whale page for more about that project.) Along with Jesse, our handiest friend around who also shares no fear of heights, we had the honour of being back in close contact with big blue for a week. Aside from a thin layer of dust that we brushed and vacuumed off her bones, we found relatively little wear to touch up. There were a few hairline cracks, which we believe resulted from heating and cooling in the all-glass atrium. All in all, we were extremely pleased with how this amazing specimen has aged. Many other shared our excitement to have another close look at the skeleton, check out this article by Brian Hutchinson.
After being handled by thousands of hands at the Beaty museum, the set of blue whale flipper bones we had made were needing to be retired. This was a fun little project to reproduce and paint the flipper bones from the molds we had made in 2010. The world of molding and casting is developing rapidly these days, so it's always fun to geek out on new products and materials each time we do a casting job!
This July, we spent 2 amazing weeks in California, working for the Noyo Center for Marine Science to run an articulation workshop with fellow skeleton articulator, Lee Post (the boneman), and with the community of Fort Bragg. We worked with five student interns and many wonderful, talented people from the community to build two stunning sea lion skeletons (photos to come.)
We mounted a male California sea lion roaring on all fours as though defending his territory. A female Steller's sea lion was captured in mid-turn as she gracefully swam through the sea. This was a real team collaboration. And it was so much fun!
Much enthusiasm was generated for the Noyo Center's innitiatives including their ambitious project to mount a 72' blue whale skeleton. We are looking forward to working with them on this, hopefully beginning next year. For more information about the Noyo Center and about this project, see the Noyo Center website.
On May 22, the Underwater Harvester's gray whale exhibit was unveiled in ceremony to the community of Deep Bay and all of the people who generously funded the project. This was truly a community achievement, a collaboration between Fisheries, the Sc'ianew First Nation and Vancouver Island University, funded by the public and with over 700 volunteer hours on the project. It was an honour and such fun to be involved in. For more information on the event, please see the news release with a link to more photos.