How to build a whale: SPU students reassemble whale skeleton

From August 17–September 4, a group of Seattle Pacific University students will begin a three-week summer course to assemble the skeleton of a gray whale to hang in the science building. This is the final part of a multi-year project to bring the whale to campus. In conjunction with the class, SPU will host four public lectures (via Zoom), with professors and local experts examining the biological, artistic, conservation, and even theological aspects of whales. The first lecture, “Knowing Whales, Part 1,” is Wednesday, August 19. Here’s some more information on the project.

The 29-foot juvenile gray whale washed ashore last year on the Washington coast. A necropsy revealed orca teeth marks and likely death by starvation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave SPU permission to retrieve the whale and display its skeleton on campus for educational purposes. The 16,000 lbs. whale was towed to Gig Harbor then hoisted ashore where students and volunteers spent hours flensing the whale (slicing the flesh and fat from the whale’s carcass).They buried the bones in manure so that nature could do the rest of the decomposing.

SPU English Professor Peter Moe, who spearheaded the effort to bring the whale skeleton to campus, will teach the summer course advised by experienced whale assembler Rus Higley, director of the Marine Science and Technology Center at Highline College.

Moe calls this “a project of conservation, a project of preservation, and ultimately a project of hope” to call attention to plight of whales in the Pacific Northwest.

Posted: Monday, August 17, 2020