Whale 68: Articulation PHASE II
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!
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?
It was the inspiration of one man, Dr. William S. Cooper, an ecologist studying how plant life returns to land freshly revealed from beneath retreated glaciers, that lead to the establishment of Glacier Bay as a National Monument in 1925.