This is the skeleton of CA-189, a transient orca whale that died and was found near Dungeness Spit,
Washington, in January of 2002. Another whale, believed to be her son, stayed around for several more
days before leaving. Hope was buried in a shallow grave after being flensed of blubber and some flesh.
Her head and one flipper was removed for further study. Six years later, the mostly clean skeleton was
excavated and turned over to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC). I was brought into
the project by a dear friend who worked for the PTMSC, originally in 2008, to meet the staff. This was
followed up by two more visits previous to the month-long articulation blitz. Over the next couple years,
the project went from a simple - when - where - and how much would it cost to assemble the skeleton - to
why don't we do this as a community volunteer project using local, enthusiasm and skills and doing some
good science and collecting some valuable data out of the skeleton before it is assembled.
Hope's first night alone as a full skeleton.
The first pair of holes being drilled into
flipper bones. Do these ladies look nervous?
These two are smoothing
replacement cartilage
Staff and a favorite docent working
on silicone cartilage between the
A crew making sure each vertebrae
is correctly lined up.
Libby Palmer (Project Director) Chrissy
and Kim (from Seattle) installing the last
sternal ribs.
Me being supervised in the correct
placement of the first pair of ribs.
Photo by Ned Schumann
Middle section of the whale skeleton.
"The Curves" (nicknamed after the work
for the curve of the backbone rod)
working on the chevron bones. These two
(Chloe and Eliza) were superb silicone
Becca, our super-welder,
holding a the skull cradle.
Caring mother to the individual
bones, smiled more and more as
the bones came together Chrissy
McLean, Marine Program
Coordinator, angst over how her
children (the bones) were turning
out. They came out beautifully.
Heather Jones, Project Coordinator, and
recent convert to the thrill of articulating
whale bones, helping Eliza with
the hyoid bones.
Unidentified visitor conversing with Hope.
Most of the proud volunteers that worked on the month-long skeleton
articulation project of Hope.
Jess Swihart, one of a trio of
Americorp workers doing repair and
consolidation to a damaged spot on
a vertebra.
Julia Ledbetter, another Americorp
worker, installing one of the last caudal
Heather Jones with one of those,
"Am I going to have to hold this
all day" looks as I search for the
right part to fasten the jaw.
click on photos to inlarge
click on photos to inlarge
At this point the project went into a holding pattern while a new plan was finalized. The new plan consisted of a
fund-raising campaign to come up with an addition to the building big enough to display the finished skeleton.
This is an ongoing campaign.

Libby Palmer, one of the original directors of the PTMSC signed on to manage the orca project. She may be the
number two volunteer magnet - right behind Hope -  in terms of attracting top rate volunteers. Chrissy McLean,
Marine Program Coordinator, was the active keeper of the bones. She finished cleaning the bones, boiling the
flipper, macerating the skull, and generally was the worried, caring mother of each of those 160 children (the
bones of the whale). With her loving care, all the bones survived and generally turned into clean, dry,
undamaged, oil-free bones, as beautiful as any museum curator could hope for. Heather Jones, a young
Science Degree Graduate and "lover of movement," was in the right place at the right time and was hired as the
Orca Project Coordinator. She organized an army of enthusiastic, when-can-we-start volunteers and turned
them into an organized dance of  precisely choreographed teams that did most of the work articulating the

I showed up in January, 2011, to direct the month-long skeleton articulation project. As I got comfortable with
how smoothly these teams were working, the challenge became to use as many more people as we could and fit
them somewhere into the project without causing overcrowding. We did what we could to accommodate
everyone. Those that didn't get to help were because I couldn't find a position for them. I did very little actual
bone building on this skeleton. Mostly I acted as the conductor, fine tuning an orchestra of enthusiastic bone
builders, trying to stay one step ahead of them in terms of materials and problem solving. Generally there were
a dozen or more volunteers working the day shift with myself and sometimes another doing planning and
problem solving into the evenings.
Some forty people were able to do hands-on work on this skeleton project. We had two professional artists
donate two weeks of their time to restore and fix the damaged skull. Two dentists came in and placed the teeth
such that the jaw can close with the teeth interlocking. Other teams worked on flippers, tail, making a life-sized
template for the curve of the metal rod in the backbone, silicone, ribs, chevron bones - and we had a super
welder who did magic with metal every time we needed something fabricated.

It was an eye-opener getting started. These were not museum professionals. Many of them had never handled a
power drill or mixed epoxy glue before this. It was an interesting blank look I got the first time I asked someone to
get the hacksaw. Before long they were all cutting metal, drilling holes, mixing epoxy and smoothing silicone.
They were slow, cautious, nervous, and methodical but what they did was absolutely top quality, museum
standard work and we got it done on time and within budget.

The interesting surprise was how many of these people didn't want to leave. They finished their projects and
hung around until I found other things on the whale for them to do. Because of all this extra energy being
channeled into finishing-work, this came out to be one fantastically, beautiful skeleton. One that both Hope and
Chrissy would smile about.

Here's to Hope into the future.
Step by step guides for the
preparation and articulation of
animal skeletons.
BY LEE POST (a.k.a. Boneman)
Between a week of workshops and a lot of e-mail
correspondence, the bones got weighed, measured and
photographed from multiple angles, for a bone atlas. The
teeth got molded and cast. A full-length 2-D model of the
whale skeleton got built which served to drastically shrink
the existing exhibit space.  copyright 2005 by Lee Post                                                      Illustrations copyright  by Lee Post. All Rights Reserved                                                                        Merry Web Designs copyright 2005
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