Whale carcass buried for later retrieval

Posted: Thursday, June 08, 2000

KODIAK (AP) -- A gray whale that beached itself on Pasagashak Beach late last month has found a not-so-final resting place in the ground near the beach.

The 40-foot whale was buried by a team of volunteers last Thursday in such a way that a completely intact skeleton can eventually be retrieved and displayed.

Kodiak High School biology teacher Stacy Studebaker worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the state Department of Fish and Game, borough officials and a local construction company to organize the effort.

''When I saw the whale I thought 'this one's mine. I've got to somehow secure this for educational purposes,''' Studebaker said.

About 15 people dug a 12-foot-deep grave and a backhoe was used to move the 40-foot-long whale into the hole. The volunteers wrapped the whale's flippers with porous fabric and duct tape to ensure the retrieval of small bones after the flesh has deteriorated.

The whale will be dug up in five to ten years ''depending on who you talk to,'' said Studebaker.

''The fact that the whale was intact was really neat,'' said Kate Wynne, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

There was no damage to the body or baleen by humans or bears, but ''it will take a little bit longer to decompose because it was so fresh when it was buried,'' said Wynne.

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