Gray whale could become big science project

Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2000

KODIAK (AP) -- If Ken Hansen with the National Marine Fisheries Service Kodiak high school science teacher Stacy Studebaker have their way, a gray whale that washed ashore in Kodiak over the weekend could become a gigantic science project.

The two want the NMFS and students to work together to clean and reconstruct the whale under school and agency expertise.

The medium-size leviathan washed up in the surf Sunday night at Pasagshak Beach. It's one of three beached whales between Pasagshak and Ugak Island, said Kate Wynn of the NMFS. She observed the whale from the air on Monday.

''Ugak Bay has the greatest concentration of live and dead whales so far reported in the Kodiak area,'' Wynn told the Kodiak Daily Mirror. ''Normally they pass through. The reason they're staying has to be that there's food around for them.''

The whale seen Sunday was about 35 feet long, said Hansen, who wants to involve students in getting the whale ''cleaned and re-articulated.''

''The intention is to get our people hooked up with people from the high school under the auspices of the law to salvage it, to get the remains of the bones and reconstruct the skeleton,'' Hansen said.

Hansen and Studebaker want to bury the carcass in the beach to let it decompose.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Larry VanDaele will be part of a group looking into concerns that deal with bears. ''We've gotten a tentative blessing,'' Hansen said.

The goal is that the government would transfer ownership of the remains to the school district, and the skeleton would be displayed for educational purposes and public viewing, Hansen said.

Although gray whales have been removed from the threatened and endangered list, Hansen warned would-be beachcombers that it is illegal to harvest any part of the flesh of the whale.

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