Sunday, August 26, 2012


by Lee Post

Hey builders of the bones,

Today is the day that we're going to call the project done. The problem being—as long as it is in sections, floating around in space like some chopped up zombie, it's hard to wrap myself around any sense of done-ness. But since done, finished, and happily whole won't likely happen until January, and even then it is but a temporary condition of completion before coming down again after the exhibit is over to await a more permanent dry ocean to swim in, I'm going to make a "Declaration of Doneness" to borrow a term from a well known local builder.

The whale got his head together this week. Even got his jaws on straight. It was heads and tails however, as Sam got the tail outline back from the welder all in one piece. (Thank you for such a beautiful job, Glenn from Glenn's Welding.) The tail outline was installed and as soon as the sections can be united, the whale will be able to swim again.

What's left is a bit of painting of the metalwork and installing the jaws again. Being that it just got done today—I haven't even wrapped myself around the concept that there is no whale project to go to tomorrow. No group of volunteers giving up their summer to go work with on bones. No daily doses of excitement as various parts of the skeleton come together. No planning what the group will be needing for the next day's progress. No designing, measuring, plotting, sketching, building bones in my sleep, problem solving for the next day's challenges. Which means—YOU DID IT!

In 49 days of work (A very Alaskan Number) 51 of you put in over 800 hours of time and converted a rather rough pile of chipped, abraded, consolidated whale bones from a 38-foot gray whale, into what is going to be a world-class exhibit featuring one of the nicest gray whale skeletons ever assembled. Wait til you see it.

It seems like only yesterday we were first setting up the room and bringing the bones out of storage from the crawl space.

Well done bone-builders.

Lee Post

Today, August 26, 2012, marks the 49th day of work done to the Pratt Museum's Homer Community Gray Whale Skeleton. It is also the day that your Blogster can finally say that the skeleton is . . . done-done. During the last few days Lee, Sam, Gaye and Wes, have been working on the finishing touches. Today the paint fairy again waved her magic brush and put a coat of primer on the metalwork that will hold the skull and jaws in place. By Tuesday all coats of paint on the metalwork should be dry. On Wednesday the skull will be put back together one more time, and will be hoisted to the ceiling for storage to await its debut.

51 individuals at some point worked on the articulation of this skeleton, amassing roughly 840 volunteer hours in 49 days (exact time not yet calculated). Whether they donated 30 minutes of their time or 100 hours, we are very grateful for each and every minute. You were all wonderful!!

After Lee's final state of the whale address is posted, your Blogster will place this account to rest until January when the skeleton is put on display at the museum. We will then return to post photos of the skeleton all in one piece. I leave you with these few photos of final events.

Mary Maly

This is the outer tail (flukes) that Sam Smith sculpted for our whale, using aluminum tubing. The measurements for the flukes were taken from a same-sized gray whale from West Seattle, salvaged in 2010. Kristin Wilkinson of NOAA Fisheries graciously provided those measurements to us, gathered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Cascadia Research biologists.
Sam attaching the sculpture to the tail vertebrae.
Arial shot!
The notch was attached to the very last tail vertebra with brass.
This photo of Wes Cartey is dedicated to his wife, Cheyenne. Now the whale too, has double nose studs.
Sleep tight whale. We'll see you again in January.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Well, gray whale skeleton fans, your Blogster keeps asking, "Is it done yet? Is it done yet?" but I'm starting to believe that this is one of those never ending projects that come along every so often. . .BUT! . . .For the most part the whale skeleton is finished. . . EXCEPT!  . . .For some fussing and primping.

The skull cradle is now finished, thanks to the expertise of Glenn and his crew at Glenn's Welding of Homer, Alaska. They fabricated the special cradle to the specifications of a template created by Marilyn Kirkham.

Yesterday, Lee worked all-by-his-lonesome (with some intermittent help from Art, in between Art's many other duties there at the Pratt Museum) to get the metalwork just right for the jaws, that will attach them to the upper part of the skull.

The primping that still needs to take place is: painting of the metalwork, attaching the jaw to the upper skull, inserting a rod between the mandibles (jaw) to hold them together, a few adjustments to the chevrons to get them in perfect alignment, and finish the outer tail sculpture. Once those things are completed, then the whale skeleton will be--as we say in your Blogster's world. . .done-done. We will continue to post photos and comments until then. And of course, there will be a final state of the whale address by Lee.

An interested reader asked why the whale skeleton won't be on display at the Pratt Museum until January. The whale skeleton will be hung in the museum's gallery in January (a major production in and of itself), when the museum is closed for renewal purposes. The skeleton is to be part of a temporary exhibit that opens in the gallery in February, so that is why it won't be hung until then.

Say AHHHH! You're standing in front of the whale at the tip of its nose, looking into the mouth of the whale's skull. The upper metal piece is the skull cradle and the lower metal piece is the jaw holder-upper.
These two photos show the skull and jaw placement, with a look at the metalwork at different angles. Once the metalwork is adjusted "just right" it will get a coat of paint.

Perfectly balanced, this whale skull swims again.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Okay gray whale skeleton fans, sorry there haven't been any new blogs in awhile. As the whale skeleton articulation comes to a close, fewer and fewer updates will happen as the process slows way down for the end. In fact, this may be one of the final blogs. This week, the last pieces of hanging metal were fabricated. As they were being finished, the crew got a bit silly.
HIGH FIVE! Or in this case, high four! (^-^) The finished pieces of the skeleton were hung from the ceiling (with care) of the workshop as a way to store them until the museum 
is ready to hang the whale skeleton for display in January.
Looks like you're a quart low.
But, I can't reach that high!
Smile for the camera, Boots. See, just like mummy.

HEY! I thought we were articulating a whale skeleton, not an alien!
Some serious work was done as Gaye added the  finishing touches to one of the mandibles. 
Nice before and after shot of the magic Gaye has performed on these bones.
Our whale is beautiful, thanks to you Gaye.

Monday, August 20, 2012

by Lee Post

This could be the last week of assembling the skeleton. The bucket list of what is left is very short.

The skull is bottom side up. It has been consolidated, glued and repaired. A little silicone will get applied. The hyoid bones will be attached. A little coloring and de-coloring and it will be ready to flip back over again. At that point, the metal skull cradle, which is being fabricated, will be put in place. (It will need to be ground smooth and painted.) Then the mandibles can be fit into place and the metal bracket that holds them up can be bent, formed and painted.

There is some repair left to do on the mandibles and the top of the skull and the mandibles will get Gaye's color-magic done to them. The tail piece that Sam is working on will be attached.

Then some of the pieces will be suspended from the ceiling to get them out of the way. Some clean-up of the workspace and that is about it till January, when it all squeezes into the museum and we will see if we can get the skeleton suspended.

This last week saw the flippers get attached. The metal tail outline finished. The skull consolidated. The skull cradle mockup built (thanks to some very meticulous work by Marilyn Kirkham). Some more touch-up of silicone. The rest of the metal spacers in the ribs made. The rib bolts were peened over flat. Weights and measurements totaled.

The finished whale to the best of our accounting weighs 1743 pounds plus whatever metal goes into the tail and skull bracket. The length along the curve is 458 inches or 38 feet -2 inches. As assembled with the curve -a straight line length is 35 feet -3 inches.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

There are a few things to get caught up on at the bone mines! But first, we had a visitor. . .
Didn't get out there fast enough with a camera, but mama moose came strolling
through the parking lot with her adorable twins. Just managed to get this
shot of the last twin to wander through. How can something so cute
grow up to be so. . . .not cute?
Here's Esther . . .pretending to be Jonah.
Her more serious side as she worked on touching up the silicone of the flippers.
Here's Sam. You're probably wondering, "What in the world
was he doing?" You're not alone whale skeleton fans!

You see, they needed to figure out how far to lower the floor before they could attach the tail onto the rest of the backbone. That hole is 2 and 1/2 feet deep. Unfortunately no photo
was taken of the tail being attached. It was only a quick, trial attachment
to perfect the attaching hardware of the tail, for display.
It is very difficult to stand in any one place in the workshop to get a
whole picture of everything going on.
Each section of the whale skeleton gets closer and closer to being finished.
The scapulae were put back in their place on the rib cage. . .
. . .in order to add the hardware to the flippers, to attach them to the scapulae.
It will look something like this. . .without the paint can, chair . . .
and the monkey in the cage.
Here's a Jonah-view of the flipper.

Axel Gillam worked on the other flipper.

It will be displayed like this.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Okay gray whale skeleton fans, your Blogster is going out of town for a bit but will catch you up on all the skeleton news on Sunday! Hang in there! Got some great photos to share with you then.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Due to technical difficulties the blog for Monday did not get posted, so today's blog will cover both Monday and Tuesday. 

Fast and furious scurrying is going on at the bone mines as volunteers explode with new found enthusiasm for the articulation of this whale skeleton. (^-^)

The Paint Fairy came and painted the rib cage framework.
When the framework was dry, the ribs were put back on it by Marilyn Kirkham.
Ribs go on, ribs come off, then on again seems to be the theme as
different stages of articulation take place.
Gaye Wolfe continued her work of beautifying the bones.
Lee and Wes get ready to "flip" the skull over so work can be done to its underside.
Hannah Heimbuch stopped by to have her picture taken. (^-^) . .No, actually Hannah
is doing a story on the whale project and stopped by the bone mines
to interview Lee and some of the volunteers.
Now what's that Sam Smith up to? Looks like he has a plan. . .
. . .and Gaye is in on it!
Even Melisse Reichman has gotten into the act. Guess it got a little warm out there in the sun.
It's a whale tail! 
Sam is sculpting an external tail that will be displayed with the skeleton.
While all that was going on, Marilyn (with Wes Cartey's assistance),
made a template for the skull cradle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

by Lee Post

As we begin the sixth week of the project, I find myself already looking back at how far we have come with a sense of nostalgia and amazement. Just five weeks ago we were passing out bones to anyone who came in to do repair work. Now I look around the whale building room at all the finished projects and think about all the people that came and dedicated great amounts of time on various aspects of a very involved articulation project. The work is first rate—all the way.

This last week saw the ribs come and go. The metal work holding the ribs was finished—the welds ground down. Aluminum spacers made for the ribs and scapulae. The scapulae were attached—then reattached when I decided the placement was too low. The top of the skull was consolidated and cleaned and finished. The chevron bones were attached. The silicone for most of the whale was given a final coat. Touch-up and finishing work was done all through the skeleton. But that doesn't mean it is finished. Just when I think I can't imagine what else there is to do or people, along comes a new wave of enthusiasm.

A new list of what is left to do: At this point the rib cage will go back together. The scapulae will be reattached. The flippers need to be attached, the hyoid bone assembly built and attached, the chevron bones finished, the skull cradle designed and fabricated, the missing pelvic bones fabricated, the underside of the skull finished and consolidated, the mandibles brought out and attachment figured out. And Sam is determined to give this whale a full-sized external tail. It could all happen this week or not depending mostly on the progress of the skull cradle.

Stay tuned.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Technically yesterday was a day off at the bone mines, but elves by the name of Wes and Cheyenne showed up to work anyway. They continued work on the skull, one of the last areas in which there is still work to be done. 

Looks like your Blogster's prediction that the project will be ending soon is off a bit. Silicone replacement needs to be finished on the front vertebrae and needs to be added to the chevron bones (the little V-shaped bones that attach to the underside of the tail vertebrae). The ribs will then be put back on to the now painted rib cage framework, so the scapulae can be attached to the ribs, and the flippers can be attached to the scapulae. 

Today it is planned that the 290 pound skull will be flipped over (not an easy task) so the underside can be worked on. Soon it will be time to work on the jaws and hyoid bones (the bones to which the tongue attaches). And the metal cradle for the skull still needs to be created.

Wes and Cheyenne Cartey add the finishing touches to the whale cart insert they built yesterday. The insert will hold the skull in place after it is turned over. 

A close-up of the rib cage frame sporting its new coat of paint.
This is what the bone mine currently looks like. That is the back of the skull (sitting on its cart) to the far left. The very end of the tail vertebrae is hanging from the ceiling to the right of the skull. Resting on the table in the foreground, is the breast bones and sternum unit. To the very right of the picture is the backbone - the tail-end of it closest to the camera.
And here are the finished flippers patiently waiting their turn to join the rest of the  body.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It was rather quiet in the bone mines yesterday, but a lot of the little things were finished and gotten out of the way. Janet Klein came in and removed all the pencil marks that were visible on the bones and sanded the bones where needed. - The skull got its nose pierced. - All the ribs were removed and the rib cage framework received a primer coat. 

Come this Tuesday, all that will remain to be done to bring this project to a close, is to get the skull finished. A unit needs to be built that will allow the skull to be turned over so the underside of it can be worked on. Then the jaws and hyoid bones will need to be assembled. The end is VERY near.

Friday, August 10, 2012

All in a day at the bone mines. . .

Esther worked on attaching the chevron bones.
That's how you get them on there!
Janet Klein (hiding behind the mask) came in to work and
Carol Harding came in to have her picture taken. (^-^)