Somewhere deep down under the glistening surface of Yaquina Bay, a sunken treasure has lain the past couple of years. Bundled in fishing nets and tied to railroad wheels, the 15-ton bounty has provided home and nourishment to estuarine scavengers of these waters, but now the time has come for retrieval. No, it’s not gold or jewels. In fact this booty will require capital in the form of donations in order to be re-claimed.
As it turns out, blue whale bones were plopped into the bay by OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute after the nearly 80-foot-long creature washed ashore dead near Gold Beach. This was, in fact, the first such beaching since the days of Lewis and Clark. An assortment of volunteers in association with the Institute leads the effort to naturally clean the bones in preparation for display at Hatfield Marine Science Center’s new Marine Studies Building, currently under construction.
The bones have been regularly checked on by divers, and now appear ready for the next phase of the preservation process. Retrieval will involve the use of a crane and barge, and later new facilities will be necessary to accommodate the hazardous chemicals needed to leach oil from the bones, which would otherwise become rancid.
The total cost comes in at $125,000, and unfortunately grant money is not available for the project.
There’s something about the possibility of walking under such a great beast’s bones that gives me the willies in a good way—it’d be a chance to contemplate our own relative smallness as individuals, while also providing a clear image of what we can accomplish collectively.
Feeling similarly enthused? You can donate to the Blue Whale Articulation Project online at: http://awesomeocean.com/tag/blue-whale-articulation-project/.
By Ari Blatt