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November 2, 2012

A whale of a project

Scientists lead clearing of Rockport's dead finback

ROCKPORT — Scientists and volunteers buried what had become one of the town’s oddest, temporary tourist draws Thursday, extracting the bones from a long-dead, beached finback whale, before burying the carcass remains in the Cape Hedge Beach parking lot.

After a composting and bleaching process that will leave the bones white and relatively scentless, the Seacoast Science Museum of Rye New Hampshire plans to display the bones either as a full whale skeleton or display skeletal parts of the whale, like the skull or a fin, according to the museum’s assistant aquarist, Kelsey Greenier.

”There’s a lot of things we can or will fix up,” Greenier said. “The jaws came out great, but the skull is kind of broken which is too bad.”

Officials were hoping for unbroken bones, but the whale sustained injuries in its long journey that cracked and shattered areas of its skeleton.

The whale carcass originally floated into Rockport and became stuck on a beachfront off Penzance Road on Oct. 20. The whale carcass had traveled to Rockport from Boston Harbor where it was originally spotted Oct. 8. While a nearby walking footpath allowed countless residents and visitors to view the finback, the beachfront was inaccessible to big town machinery, making it nearly impossible to move the carcass. So, town officials resigned to letting nature take its course on the body.

But when the winds and coastal surge of Tropical Storm Sandy struck Monday night, high tides washed the whale carcass briefly out to sea and then up onto Cape Hedge Beach where work teams could finally access the carcass with heavy machinery and tools.

”It’s just been bashed around so much from the storm,” said Mendy Garron of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. “And this whale has been beaten up pretty good, so a lot of bones are broken.”

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