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Blue Whale Skeleton Unearthed and in Storage on City of Fort Bragg Property

Picture taken by Larry Wagner

The Blue Whale is the Biggest Creature to Ever Exist on Earth

Blue Whale Facts: Blue whales are the largest animals ever known to have lived on Earth. They can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh in at 200 tons. Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant. Their hearts, as much as an automobile. Blue whales are baleen whales, which means they have fringed plates of fingernail-like material, called baleen, attached to their upper jaws. The giant animals feed by first gulping an enormous mouthful of water, expanding the pleated skin on their throat and belly to take it in. Then the whale’s massive tongue forces the water out through the thin overlapping baleen plates. Blue whales reach these mind-boggling dimensions on a diet composed nearly exclusively of tiny shrimp like animals called krill. During certain times of the year a single adult blue whale consumes about 4 tons of krill a day. Blue whales look true blue underwater, but on the surface their coloring is more a mottled blue-gray. Their underbellies take on a yellowish hue from the millions of microorganisms that take up residence in their skin. The blue whale has a broad, flat head and a long, tapered body that ends in wide, triangular flukes.

Back in October of 2009, a female blue whale that washed ashore south of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens appeared to have died after it collided with a research vessel several miles off the Mendocino coast. The service got a call from the research vessel Pacific Star, saying they had struck a whale. It was estimated that the blue whale swam under the research vessel and hit its propeller.

The whale carcass laid in an inlet adjacent to private property, part of a gated community south of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. From the cliffs you could see a gash located in the whale’s blubber layer. The female blue whale was about 72 feet long and weighed more than 50 tons. It was decided to move the whale to a secret location and bury her. 

Well moving ahead in time to June of 2013 with a team of 20 to 25 volunteers from Mendocino, Humboldt and Sonoma counties spent the better part of a week unearthing the remains of the 72 foot blue whale.

The city of Fort Bragg, in collaboration with Sonoma State University, has already developed conceptual plans for the Noyo Center for Science and Education project. Plans include a variety of interpretive exhibits to increase public understanding and knowledge of marine and coastal resources, a marine research laboratory, support facility space, and temporary housing for marine researchers.

Once the specimen is assembled and on display, it will be one of only six complete blue whale skeletons on exhibit in the United States. The bones which are now in storage will be cleaned and stored while funds are raised to build a marine science center. When the time comes to assemble the skeleton it is said that they would love to articulate the joints so the blue whale skeleton can undulate as if swimming in the ocean. 

Future plans: The blue whale skeleton is to be reassembled inside a future building at what will become the Noyo Center for Science and Education which has been the city of Fort Bragg’s project since 2003, when Fort Bragg acquired the old Georgia Pacific site which was the location of the second largest redwood mill in the world stretching from the Noyo Harbor to Glass Beach, next to Pudding Creek.

Update: As of June 12, 2013 a permit approved by the Fort Bragg Planning Commission will start the process of moving the former Georgia Pacific visitor center across the mill site, but offered the visitor’s center (chalet) building to the city of Fort Bragg for a dollar, with the condition that the city move it from its current location. The center’s plans have gone through a detailed planning process and grant application writing. This opportunity that the small visitor’s center could be the first step in development for the new Noyo Center for Science and Education main public exhibit will be the massive blue whale skeleton which will be reassembled inside a yet to be built building near the chalets future location.

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