• They have a lot more to teach us.

    We've learned a lot with your help. But there's still so much we need to know to protect our wild dolphin neighbors.

    Give to dolphin research at the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Sea Turtel sick and injured from fishing line

    You can stop this.

    Protecting marine wildlife is within your reach.

    When you give to put monofilament recycling bins within reach of conscientious boaters and anglers.

  • Harbor seal in need

    Save lives, reduce suffering, learn more.

    It's a win, win, win – when you support our Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

    Please give generously to the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Cetacean Studies

    Inspire curiosity.

    What does it take to get students interested in science and conservation? Your help.

    Please give generously to support Cetacean Studies and the Bonehenge rearticulation project.

Author Archive

Minke Whale Baleen

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Cetacean Studies

MOST IMPORTANT – this article is just for your interest because it is illegal for anyone without an official government permit to possess any part of a marine mammal. This piece of baleen is legally permitted. 
 As I was preparing to unfreeze and condition an entire rack of baleen from a minke whale that stranded in Cape Lookout Bight , I knew 3 things:
1. I didn’t want it to smell
2. I wanted it to retain its beautiful white color    
3. I wanted it to remain as flexible as possible

I found less definitive information than I expected but what I did find was fascinating.
-Baleen is fine textured creamy white with pure white bristles
-Baleen is made of keratin – animal protein. The hair-like structures of baleen are actually small tubules composed of concentric, alternating layers of keratin and hydroxyapatite. Keratin is the same tough protein found in fingernails, and hydroxyapatite is the same mineral that makes bones strong. Using Hair conditioner with keratin will help maintain flexibility in both plates and fringe
This link seemed to be a ‘hair conditioner’ as pure as any I found with a substantial amount of keratin.

To clean and prepare:
-Baleen is not soluble in water but it can be softened in hot or boiling water
  1. Soak in fresh water for at least 3 days (checking to confirm water is not evaporated)  and longer if it has been frozen. Then wash in hot soapy water
  2. A toothbrush is a good size tool and if the baleen pieces are held apart it is easier to get at the side near gums, so blood vessels, fat, debris, tiny critters and flesh can be completely cleaned away.
  3. Rinse well with fresh water
  4. While drying, to keep from warping, either attach to a board or put under pressure of weight. Fans will help speed drying but even so it will probably take at least several weeks. 
 Important technical details:
The factors that cause deterioration of baleen are the same for hair, horn, wool, and feathers, and they are:
1. Water softens and swells the fibers (making the baleen easier to split and
weave).The higher the water temperature, the faster the rate of degradation.
2. Heat induced oxidation; greater than 302° F causes bond cleavage.
3. The alcohols methanol, ethanol and n-propanol cause swelling; isopropanol
causes contraction. In both cases a chemical change (called esterification) occurs.
4. Oxidizing agents (hydrogen peroxide) and reducing agents (used in permanent
waves) cause degradation.
5. Acids less than pH4 and alkalies cause degradation
6. Physical abrasion causes deterioration.
After cleaning protect baleen (and feathers, horn, hair, and wool) from intense light and heat, rough handling, wetting by water or alcohols, and acidic or alkaline solutions.
Compiled by Brooks from multiple sources and photos by Brooks.

Keith Rittmaster’s Fabulous Presentations

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Cape Lookout Studies Program, Education

The first one on, Monday evening, September 26, was sponsored by Go-Science’s Science Cafe at McCurdy’s  Restaurant on the Atlantic Beach Causeway.What a great crowd !!! His presentation was about Bonehenge (our sperm whale skeleton re-articulation project) and even though  some of us had heard a presentation about Bonehenge several times, it was still fascinating. He always adds  new pictures and information to each presentation, so I go as often as I can. It was an over flow crowd. The excitement  of moving towards the final 6 months before the display moves to the NC Maritime Museum is amazing when we look back at the whole process.For great information about the sperm whale from the stranding at Cape Lookout January 2004 to its skeleton now hanging in a beautifully dynamic dive in the bonehenge barn click here.bonehenge

The second presentation was Friday evening September 30 at the NC Maritime Museum. It was about his NOAA marine mammal survey cruise this past summer. (There is lots of info about this in  previous posts on this blog). It was so mesmerizing that no one got up to leave when it was over, we just asked questions and kept Keith talking. We learned what ship board life was like; how incredibly good the food was; the science of deep water acoustics; how different data was collected; how funny they looked in their safety suits; the differences inside and outside the under water canyon and much more.What a gift Keith is to our Beaufort community  !!

Post Hurricane Turtle Rescue on Indian Beach, NC

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Sea turtles

Story and photographs by guest blogger Kim Merrels. 
Here’s the story of a wayward turtle, named “Squirtle” by his/her rescuers, as told told by Kim Merrels, long time Indian Beach resident and long time Cape Lookout Studies Program Volunteer:
“On Sunday, Sept.4, 2011, several of us were enjoying a beautiful afternoon on Indian Beach.  Jimmy Watkins noticed something crawling up the beach from the ocean.  We thought that it was a baby turtle.

A neighbor, Johnnie Tyson, put 3 little sticks around it, to “mark its spot in the sand.”
I called Keith Rittmaster to find out what to do, and he gave me the name and phone # of Matthew Godfrey, Coordinator of the NC Turtle Project.  When I talked to Matthew, he had me describe it to him, and he determined that it was a Diamondback Terrapin, a land turtle, rather than a sea turtle.  He also said that they live in brackish water like the sound, rather than in the ocean, and suggested if there were any way to return it to the sound, that would be the best thing to do.

I put it into the little bucket, and Reid Watkins, 16, daughter of Jimmy Watkins, who first saw it, drove Walker Woodall, age 6, his aunt, Susan Daniel, and me to Willis Seafood in Salter Path on the Sound to release “Squirtle” .

After letting the owners, Wade and Vesta Willis, know why we were there, Vesta explained that during Hurricane Irene the sound washed over the island to the ocean taking all kinds of critters with it. Walker, with a little help from Susan, released the turtle into the sound.  ‘Squirtle’ dove and surfaced twice, and then swam away — hopefully, to somewhere close to its original home.”  Kim 

Thanks Kim !!!
One of the easiest ways to tell a land turtle from a sea turtle is the land turtle will have clawed feet and the sea turtle will have flippers instead of feet.

Wildlife at Sea – Final Dispatch from Keith Aboard the Gordon Gunter NOAA Marine Mammal Assessment Cruise

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Following are an incredible 3 posters taken by Keith and other scientists of wildlife they saw on their 6 weeks up and down  the north western Atlantic Coast aboard the Gordon Gunter for an annual Marine Mammal Assessment Cruise See link following for a picture of their route. http://spyhoplog.blogspot.com/
Remember, you can click on each ‘poster’ below to enlarge it !

Green Flash and Brown Noddy

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

 This update came in from Keith Rittmaster July 27, 2011 from the NOAA Marine Mammal Assessment Cruise.
Above is a picture of a Brown Noddy that hitched a ride on board for awhile.    He wrote in his email  that Capes Hatteras and Lookout are  marine mammal hotspots, and Lookout is a loggerhead hotspot.  But Lookout also seemed to be the trash hotspot.  He also said how interesting it was to experience the different biology of the inner and outer continental shelves.  

   He continues: “Now we’re in blue water off northern Florida and seeing pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins, and grampus whales around the inner shelf break.  No sperm whales since Lookout.  We saw a mola breach high out of the water which I would have never imagined could be possible.  In fact I didn’t believe my eyes, but 2 other people saw it too.  
Offshore bottlenose dolphins are very entertaining bow riders twisting and doing back flops.” 
These pictures of the green flash are amazing, they are the best representation of it that I have seen. All the decades I’ve lived on one coast or the other and looked for the green flash, I never saw one. (You may want to enlarge the pictures to see it better).
Today’s Dining Room fare:  Wahoo ceviche for dinner.  Quesadillas with mango salsa for lunch.  Every breakfast has ‘ship made’ yogurt, fruit salad, pancakes, and omelets to order.  Our bananas are on the way out so we’ve been eating lots of banana bread. The chef even makes soy milk and tofu on board from organic soybeans.” 
I know he misses home but it’s hard to feel too, too sorry for him.