• Sunset view of Glacier Bay and the surrounding Fairweather Mountains.

    Glacier Bay

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Whale 68: Articulation PHASE II

Final posture for exhibit

Whales and Nails created a 1/2" scale model of Snow to guide the articulation

NPS Photo

Putting Snow Back Together

Before Whales and Nails could begin articulation, several decisions had to be made with regards to the final exhibit. Probably the most important decision, and one that could never be changed, was the posture. The park had a strong desire to showcase Snow's skeleton in a natural position that would allow for maximum viewing opportunities and accurately reflect the anatomy and movement of a humpback whale. Many resources were referenced to help the park guide Whales and Nails in this decision.

To begin the process, Dan created three, beautiful 1/4" scale models using modeling clay, pipe cleaners, and recycled wood. Each posture showed the skeleton with varying degrees of curvature in the spine. After much discussion and feedback from the park's Facebook followers, most everyone was in favor of posture #3 - the whale exhibiting the most motion. Once a consensus was reached, a second model was produced at 1/2" scale that included pedestrians, the height and visibility of the blowhole, and mounts and attachments for installation. We had a winner!

A pilot drill begins the first hole

The Spine

The central piece of the articulation was the thirty-one foot spine and fourteen foot skull. The fifty-seven individual vertebrae (thoracic, lumbar, caudal) and seven fused (cervical) vertebrae in the spine were pieced together in sections so they could be easily be moved and transported back to Glacier Bay for installation. This was the anchor for the entire articulation project. The flippers and ribs were added later.

To start, a hole was drilled through each vertebrae so that it could be threaded on to an 8' stainless steel pipe. A long pilot drill bit was used to center a drill hole through the middle of each bone. Then, a 4" hole saw was used to core out the center. Some of the bones were over 12" deep which required the team to complete the task in multiple steps - drill, chisel out the core, drill futher, chisel, etc. Dan had to specially make chisels that were heavy, but thin enough to allow the team to work deep in the vertebrae. "We found it best to only work from one side because even a slight misalignment can cause the hole saw to bind and is dangerous - not to mention results in a sloppy hole." To simulate cartilage between the bones, urethane foam was used to fill the spaces. The expanding foam acted like a glue to compress the vertebrae against one another and help hold them in place. Once dry, the cartilage was covered with epoxy and a final layer of putty.



Did You Know?

Common Murre Egg

Common Murres (often seen on or near the Marble Islands) have a unique nesting behavior. They lay a single egg on bare ground or rock ledges. The egg is pear-shaped which prevents it from rolling off the ledge. Each egg has unique speckles and coloration that helps the parents identify their egg.