Last updated: April 14, 2015
When Dan DenDanto of 'Whales and Nails' took on the challenging task of cleaning and repairing Whale 68's skeleton, he knew exactly what he was getting into. Having cleaned and articulated over a dozen whale skeletons prior to Snow, he was well aware of the challenges, especially when it came to repairing the skull.
As a result of trauma from the 2001 cruise ship strike, Snow's skull was broken into three major pieces, with dozens of loose skull fragments ranging from chunks larger than a shoe box, to pieces small enough to fit in one hand. When Dan unpacked the skeleton in his Maine workshop, he counted over 58 individual skull fragments in varying condition, from oily to clean, and from good to cracked or broken. In addition to perimortem trauma, Snow also had various degrees of postmortem trauma that occurred after her death. Some damage was the result of abrasion of bone surfaces against each other, or against another hard surface, while the carcass was adrift or after it was beached. Some postmortem damage was the result of forces exerted on the bone during the retrieval - impressions, or crush damage, from lifting straps. Scavenger damage also occurred, probably by rodents such as squirrels and porcupines. Making repairs to the skull involved using several different techniques.
Dan's desire to use original bone when making repairs required him to be quite versatile in his approach. He used a combination of glue, epoxy putty, and urethane foam to get the desired results. In the photo below, Courtney begins the repair of a long abrasion along the lateral edge of the right maxilla (part of the rostrum). The pins will provide an anchor for the prosthetically repaired piece. Once in place, the prosthetic will be coated with epoxy and painted to match the surrounding bone. Stay tuned for the final result!