In October of 2010, I took a "bus man's holiday" type vacation to a wonderful little nature reserve, just
south of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, called
El Refugio de Potosi. The staff of this reserve had collected the
skeleton out of a rotting, large male sperm whale that was being battered against the local coastline
in May of 2009. The skull was broken, some ribs were missing and the small bones in the flippers
were mostly gone, but otherwise it was a fairly complete skeleton, most of 55-feet long. I got
involved with the story when I received an email from the director, Laurel Patrick, asking what
they could do to save the bones.
This is the main compound/visitors
area at El Refugio de Potosi.
Laurel Patrick is the director of this
non-profit nature refuge.
While I was there I introduced the staff to the fun of articulating a skeleton. We worked on a dolphin and a crocodile skeleton.
The sperm whale bones as I first saw them.
This is probably the only sperm whale skeleton in Mexico. It is likely as large as any sperm whale skeleton on display
in the world. The staff of this little non-profit nature refuge is doing all they can to preserve these bones.

They hope to display the bones as a full, outdoors exhibit, sperm whale skeleton. They are working with a budget
that is pennies to the dollar of such a project if it were done in the United States. There are all kinds of difficulties in
trying to get money or materials for their project.

To learn more about this nature refuge or to follow the progress they are making on their sperm whale skeleton,
their website is

If you can help out, I'm sure they would be very appreciative.
Step by step guides for the
preparation and articulation of
animal skeletons.
BY LEE POST (a.k.a. Boneman)  copyright 2005 by Lee Post                                                      Illustrations copyright  by Lee Post. All Rights Reserved                                                                        Merry Web Designs copyright
THIS SITE LAST UPDATED: February 20, 2016   
She said the bones were oil and flesh free and were rapidly degrading and getting soft. This is the
opposite problem most whale skeletons have. Many whale skeletons in museums are still dripping oil,
even after 100 years or more! Last summer I looked at some humpback whale bones in Alaska that,
even after nine years of being macerated, weathered, boiled and composted, still had bones that were
oil saturated. So, I was a little incredulous to hear that the El Refugio de Potosi's sperm whale bones
were in this condition after less than eighteen months of being removed from the whale.
It turned out that is exactly the condition the bones were in. Evidently the heat, humidity, rain and sun had totally leached all the oils from the bone and they
were dry and starting to deteriorate. We experimented with various local materials to find one that might consolidate the bones and keep them from degrading
any further. An acrylic based cement sealer seemed like it was doing the job pretty well.
Fast forward to January 2016. I heard Laurel was going to make a push for some forward motion on the whale skeleton with David Evans, an inventor from
Canada. I offered to help and suggested she put a call out for some other volunteers. She found close to twenty people that came to help out.

This was a very mixed group, ranging from locals that spoke no English, to a pair of college students from Mexico City, to local American snowbirds, to friends
and acquaintances, to myself and David who came for a winter break to work on the skeleton.

On the first day, David showed up with a suitcase full of tools and, along with Laurel's worker-staff, we figured out a scaffolding system that worked for
putting the rib cage together.

With Laurel coordinating schedules and chasing materials, me choreographing the teams, and David working with me on the rib cage fabrication, it progressed
like clockwork and we got the skeleton finished with one day to spare. Lots of happy players involved.

This was the largest whale skeleton I've worked on. They didn't have an accurate measurement of the full whale, as it washed in and out of rough surf at the
time, but the finished skeleton came in at 1574 cm with a 5 meter-long skull and a 4.5 meter-long mandible, from what I suspect was about a 55-foot whale in life.
The skeleton and the work area ready
for the workers to get started.
Daniela and Isain, students from
Mexico City, on
Team Chevron Bone.
Team Flipper Fixers, set up and in action.
Team Tail Bending, bending metal
pipe sections for a tail outline.
Local welder doing his magic on the rib
support system.
David from Canada, attaching a rib.
The workshop in action.
Emily and Brandon from Oregon,
working on a flipper assembly.
Isain and myself fastening another rib.
Laurel and Orlando inspecting a
finished flipper.
Orlando and David carrying the flippers
from the other work area to the whale.
The tail outline in place.
Orlando's kids doing the Jonah thing.
The rib cage is complete.
The flippers are attached.
The swimming whale is smiling.
Skeleton at night.
The finished sperm whale skeleton.
Click on photos to enlarge
Click on photos to enlarge
Click on photos to enlarge
Click on photos to enlarge
Daniela and Isain, happy bone builders
with their finished chevron bones.