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Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus)

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Gray whaleSuspended from the ceiling is the skeleton of a 38-foot (11.6 m) long mature gray whale. Gray whales are baleen whales, which are generally larger than toothed whales. Baleen whales have a straining device of "whale bone" (fingernail-like baleen attached to the palate), used to filter plankton from the water. It is thought that whales mate for life. Whales are mammals deriving their oxygen from the air. They have mammalian four-chambered hearts, hair and mammary glands. They evolved from a four-legged land mammal and still have remnants of pelvic bones.

During the late spring of 1985, a fisherman in Benicia CA found the whale carcass wedged under a pier. This whale's blubber was only 2 to 5 inches (5 to 12 cm) thick rather than the 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of a normal whale. In addition, two right ribs had been previously broken and one had not healed properly. He entered San Francisco Bay and, in spite of the quiet water and abundant food, he died. Sierra College science students prepared his skeleton and mounted it in 11 months. Bone deformation in the powerful trunk region was probably aggravated by the unhealed rib injury and made it painful to drive the tail flukes. This probably lead to his death.

Whale before it was hung.Preparing the skeleton mount, normally a two year process, was conducted by Sierra College biology students and supervised by Charles Dailey of the zoology department in one year. During this time the whale had many different names. ‘Bob’ was originally found bobbing up and down in the bay. The Navy towed ‘Skip’ behind a large boat to shore, but a multi-ton whale doesn't skip too well. After dragging it up to the sandy shore, its name became ‘Sandy.’ After cutting it into several parts ‘Sybil,’ named after a person with a split personality, was loaded into the back of a dump truck. ‘Sybil’ was taken to Mr. Dailey’s home east of Lincoln. After the flies found it, it became known as ‘Buzz.’ Soon ‘Buzz’ was placed in a large hole and renamed ‘Phil.’ When neighbors began to notice a strong odor, ‘Barry’ was buried. Six weeks later ‘Doug’ was dug out of the ground. Next ‘Stu’s’ bones were degreased by boiling in 50 gallon barrels. The skeleton was then mounted for display. His spine shows the arthritis which probably killed him and thus ‘Art’ received his final name. The entire process was completed minutes before the beginning of the Sierra College fiftieth anniversary open house in April 1986. So it is fitting that you can come see Art hung in a museum!

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