Research | Student Life

Students will reassemble whale skeleton to hang in Eaton Hall

Next year, a class of SPU students will assemble the skeleton of a gray whale that washed ashore on a private beach in Longbranch, Washington. Peter Moe, assistant professor of English and director of campus writing, will teach the 2020 summer course advised by experienced whale assembler Rus Higley, director of the Marine Science and Technology Center at Highline College.

A necropsy of the whale revealed orca teeth marks and likely death by starvation.

Moe and Higley helped tow the whale to Gig Harbor. The rotting carcass then traveled by truck to a nearby farm where volunteers, including SPU faculty and staff, buried the bones in manure to allow the enzymes and microorganisms to remove the oil, blood, and meat.

An array of SPU faculty will speak about whales from their respective disciplines, including theology, biology, and art during the summer course. The rest of the time will be spent drilling holes, hanging rods, and puzzling the whale together. The articulated skeleton will hang in SPU’s science building, Eaton Hall.

Editor’s note: More than 70 gray whales have washed up on West Coast beaches this year. It’s the highest mortality rate for gray whales since 2000. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the cause.

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