Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Baby Whale Bone Soup

So, when I applied for this job, never in my life did I think that I would be spending a day hunched over in protective equipment as I assisted with the cleaning of a baby Orca's bones. But now I can say that I know a way to de-mildew bones using highly caustic chemicals, two buckets of water, and some seed trays.
 So, how did we do it? First we cut some hydrogen peroxide with water, and cut it again. Now this is a waaaaay higher concentration than what is used for wounds--it's super caustic! I don't know why it's the mildew and not the bones that is targeted, however. Science is not my forte... However, this mixture is brought up to a simmer and then...

Cindy (my lovely boss) adds hydrogen peroxide to the pot
 WE ADD THE BONES! Well, how did you come across these bones, Sarah, you may ask, and how on Earth did they become so covered in mildew that you had to do this process to fix them? This is a very interesting story.

These bones are of a baby Orca--but they head is on display in the museum already. What had happened is that the bones had been stripped of flesh, but had then been put away and forgotten--for twenty years!

They were finally rediscovered a couple of years ago, but by that point, they had acquired quite a nasty case of mildew. In order to fix this, first we had to find a stretch of good weather, a bunch of people willing, and free time. This is one of the busiest seasons so, as you can expect, having this day was quite a fortune!

After being boiled, the bones are given a rinse in two separate buckets of water and then gently brushed.
And then they are dried
 It was really amazing to watch the mildew just float off as the bones were dipped in the solution. They got so much better than they were before.

The new intern, Michael, was crucial to the bone-dipping process

See the difference? The top of the bone has not been dipped yet--the bottom has just come out!
 All in all, it was a super fun (and informative) experience. Between this project and Stinky Bill, I think I'll become a whale osteologist!

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