• 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.

Gervais’ beaked whale skeletal display

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Uncategorized

Gervais Whale Skeleton (Mesoplodon europaeus)

gervais whale skeleton

Gervais Beaked whale, currently on display at Duke marine lab until November 2017

 

The Gervais is the most frequently stranded beaked whale in North Carolina. This skeleton was re-articulated from a whale which stranded on July 18, 2012 on the ocean beach of Salvo, NC. It was a 356 cm long, 445 kg sub-adult male. After the necropsy and pectoral fin radiographs, the bones were labeled, wrapped in nylon netting, and macerated in water with horse feces for nine warm months. The Gervais whale skeleton is now on display in the Repass Ocean Conservation Center at Duke marine lab in Beaufort. Watch a video of hanging the whale skeleton.

Around 340 man hours were dedicated to this project. We would like to thank everyone who helped with reporting, recovery, moving carcass, consultation, necropsy, related research, radiographs, bone weighing, bone preparation, note taking, carpentry, photography, volunteer/staff provisioning, music, and funding.

The team of Nan Bowles, Josh Summers, and Keith Rittmaster recently put the final touches on a Gervais’ beaked whale skeleton and presented it at the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal Symposium.

In November 2017 it is scheduled to go on display at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. As far as we know, this is the only skeletal display of this species in the world!

Stumpy the Right Whale is Being Installed in the NC Museum of Science

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

Keith Rittmaster, the leader of Cape Lookout Studies Program,was in Raleigh, NC last week working with Dan DenDanto and his Whales and Nails team installing a reassembled  52 foot right right whale in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Good practice for the 34 foot sperm whale  that Keith  will soon install in the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort, NC.
Un-posed above and posed below. Above, Keith is in the red t-shirt and below in the blue hard hat with the Whales and Nails team.
For more information. about the whale reassembly process in Maine.
And here for more on the installation work at the Museum of Science.
This will be an amazing educational display. Stumpy, and her calves, were right whales well known to researchers. She had migrated up and down the Atlantic Coast for years.She was found floating dead near the NC-VA border after being hit by a large ship. At the time of her death she was almost ready to deliver a male fetus. The fetus died. His skeleton will be displayed where she was carrying him at the time of their death. Her jaw was broken from the ship strike. Pieces of her jaw bone were used to research the damage from a ship strike at different ship speeds. This is valuable information that will help establish the speed that ships can safely travel in waters where these whales live and travel.

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.

PREPARATION OF MINKE BALEEN
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

GO-Science
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  !!

UPDATES

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, monofilament recycling

Not as exciting as Baja and whales, but here are the Cape Lookout Studies updates this month.

Bonehenge.
The skull is still in the jacuzzi releasing grease – this whale had an amazing amount of grease. Two huge limbs from the oak tree just above the jacuzzi almost smashed the skull in a snow storm. Pierre-Henry Fontaine from Quebec visited Bonehenge (and our sperm whale) and offered sage advice. Starting with the tail, we’ve begun fabricating intervertebral discs, and we’re drilling through vertebrae and mounting them on 3/8″ stainless allthread. Dominic Brown, from Channel 12,ran a news story about Bonehenge, which portrayed his, and our, excitement about this project.

Central NC Marine Mammal Strandings.
At the annual NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network Conference in February, Keith requested an entire adult right whale skeleton should one happen to come ashore at a convenient location and time. Keith also agreed to develop a form to be used by anyone for formally requesting specimens, data, samples, photos, analysis etc. from stranded marine mammals in NC.
Vicky Thayer will present North Carolina delphinid stranding diversity from 1992-2009 at the SEAMAMMS Conference March 26-28 in Virginia Beach.

Our web sites and blog, have been wonderfully busy.

Bottlenose dolphin photo ID
Even with really tough weather conditions, we got out 5 days, had 11 sightings and have dorsal fin photos of 85 dolphins. We continue to see Manteo and Virginia Beach dolphins plus a few freeze brands.

The ‘Protect Wild Dolphin’ License Plate quarterly check was $3,180.This money really helps support our research. If you live in NC, please consider joining our group of dolphin plate people.
Click here for license plate information.

NC Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program
Two little used bins were removed from Emerald Isle beaches. One new outdoor bin went to Sarah Falkowski of Outer banks Center for Wildlife Education for use in Currituck County. One outdoor bin and one indoor box went to Allen Fitz of Network for Endangered Sea Turtles for use in Dare County.

ONLY 3 DAYS LEFT – HELP

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

We only have 3 days left to take advantage of a matching funds offer. (Sounds like NPR).
southernfriedscience.com is offering to match any funds donated to Bonehenge for the next 3 daysIf you scroll down on their site, you will come to an image on the right of a Sperm Whale skeleton that says ‘donate now’. There is a link to Bonehenge.org but don’t click the link because you will only get the matching funds by donating on his southernfriedscience site. Take a look at the Bonehenge.org site though, it is really interesting and worth donating to. A sperm whale skeleton is being re-articulated here in Beaufort, NC in a building built just for this project. There are some state of the art procedures being used such as x-rays of one of the flippers that was frozen at the time of stranding to assure accuracy in arranging the complex flipper bones, comparisons to human bones of the same approximate age, analysis of stomach contents and bone degreasing. We are learning from what has and has not worked in the past.
Thanks !

Stranded Sperm Whale on Cape Lookout Spit

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Cetacean Studies, Marine Mammal Stranding Network

sperm whalesperm whaleOn or before January 30, 2004 a 33½ foot male sperm whale washed ashore dead on the west (ocean) beach of Power Squadron Spit near Cape Lookout. The whale was closely examined by NOAA scientists and NC State veterinarians and others to try and determine cause of death but none was found.

 

sperm whalePortions of the whale will be saved for research and education.

 

 

 

  • sperm whaleAdult sperm whales range in length from 50-40 feet, males being longer then females. The size of the stranded whale, 33½ feet, may indicate this whale was a young male just past the age of being weaned.

 

 

  • sperm whale

    tooth

    Sperm whales have long life spans, some living as long as 70 years.

  • The blowhole on a sperm whale is located on the left side toward the very front of the head.
  • Teeth occur only on the lower jaw of a sperm whale. Some teeth have been measured at eight inches in length.
  • Sperm whales are deep divers of the ocean. A single dive might last from 30 minutes to an hour in length.
  • Sperm whales inhabit both the northern and southern hemispheres. These whales migrate north and south with the seasons within their respective regions.
  • sperm whale

    atlas

    Squids of various sizes are the primary food of these large whales; the largest of all the known toothed whales.

  • Parts of the sperm whale were once used by humans, making this whale one of the most frequently hunted whales during the peak of the whaling industry. Spermaceti, an oil located within the large head, was used for heating and lighting purposes. Some Scientists suggest that the spermaceti is used by these whales as part of their sound system. Ambergris, a waxy, gray substance formed in the intestines wherever a squid beak, the one hard indigestible part of the squid, occurs. Ambergris was used in the production of expensive perfume.
  • As of 31 December 1994, sperm whales were listed as endangered and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

sperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whale

 

sperm whale

spermaceti

sperm whale

hyoid bone

sperm whale

spinal column