The skeleton of a gray whale that washed up on the shore of Halibut Cove in 1999 was recently moved into the lobby of the Pratt Museum in Homer and is currently being assembled to feature in a new exhibit.
For fourteen years, the museum has had the skeleton of a juvenile gray whale in its collection. In 1999, the whale was seen in Kachemak Bay and was reportedly behaving erratically. It died soon afterwards and washed up on the shores of Halibut Cove, one out of hundreds of grey whales to be beached between the years of 1999 and 2000 which according to Lee Post, a local expert on bone articulation, is a phenomenon that has never been explained.
"They had seven times the normal number of gray whales washing up," he said. "After that, it went back to normal and nobody has ever really known why."
After the whale washed up on the shore, a group of Homer locals began the process of butchering the whale and preserving its skeleton, something that according to Scott Bartlett, the Pratt Museum’s curator of exhibits, took several years as certain parts of the skeleton needed to be cleaned of cartilage somewhat delicately.
Bartlett says some of the parts were placed in crab pots so they could decompose in water, while other parts were cleaned, logged and photographed by museum volunteers.
The skeleton sat in pieces in the storage of the Pratt Museum’s workshop for nearly a decade after having been photographed and treated, until last year when plans were set in motion to begin the process of assembling it. On Saturday, volunteers gathered at the Pratt to help move the skeleton into the lobby of the museum, one section of which Bartlett said needed 12 people constantly underneath it.
The skeleton is still being assembled and won’t fully be so until it is ready to hang from the ceiling and while it is not yet fully assembled, Post says that the skeleton is very impressive and congratulated the community effort in helping move it.
"This is a spectacular skeleton," he said. "In part because so many people worked on it and so many people had a lot of enthusiasm."
While the skeleton will be hanging in the lobby of the Pratt Museum once it reopens, it is not intended to remain in that building since, according to Bartlett, plans are currently being made to erect a new Pratt Museum building which once it does will feature the skeleton as a permanent exhibit.
The Pratt Museum is currently closed until February but once it reopens, the community of Homer will get to see the completed Grey Whale skeleton for themselves. For more information about the Pratt Museum along with their projects and exhibits, visit www.prattmuseum.org.