Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Whale Job: Vertebrae And Other Notes

Smells great.
Since I don't have the skull bought up from the prior location yet, this week's entry is a couple side projects to this mess. Specifically, the preparation of a few vertebrae. I had a few requests for smaller bones, and at least one vertebra. So over Labour Day weekend I visited what's left of the carcass where it was found originally. It's half-buried and heavily decayed, and bears a positively uncanny resemblance to SCP-682. I pulled three vertebrae. One for the original request, one for the family, and a spare in case I screw one up, which is probably going to wind up being a personal one.

The boiling rig.

I decided to go with a different method to clean these. Boiling. Bought a few 1-pound propane tanks and went outside on a gloomy Wednesday afternoon to boil them over a Coleman stove. A couple notes about that: 1) heated whale bone smells absolutely awful. 2) Coleman stoves have no heating capability. The water never actually boiled fully. But a bit of dish soap and a couple hours is good enough for me. After that, they were rinsed in cold water. Then came the interesting part. Whitening them up. Most every source I'd read suggested hydrogen peroxide, so I tried that. Results were negative. As in nothing happened. At all. 3% solution apparently isn't the ideal for bleaching. So I decided to try something else.

After a short time in the strong solution.
Now, before anybody gets on me about this, I know it's not the best of ideas. But I don't have the time or resources to get enough 35% peroxide to do this, so I used plain household bleach. A strong solution that was diluted quickly. This did work, quite well in fact. Left to bleach out for a couple hours before I decided they were done enough. They were then soaked out overnight in a bath of warm water that was changed 4 times. This seems to have stopped any possible damage, as they look fine right now. Interesting fact, apparently cats find whale bones very interesting.

See what I have to deal with?
Once they'd soaked out overnight, the next issue is drying and sealing. That was relatively simple, actually. Drying was accomplished by leaving the specimens on an outdoor table for a few days to air-dry. Sealing was slightly more difficult, meaning I actually had to buy something. A can of spray-on lacquer. That was applied today, with what I'm guessing are good results. I may put another coat or two on, I'm not sure yet. Either way, it was quicker than I'd expected.

Now, about the rest of the operation. The skull is still where I left it, because I need a couple things before I pick it up. Most specifically, a few gallons of ammonia. Planning to contact an industrial supply house for this, because 10-15 gallons of ammonia would be a difficult thing to find otherwise. Once that's been acquired, I'm going to soak the bones in a water/ammonia solution for a few days or weeks to draw out as much grease as possible. As for whitening the skull itself, I don't plan on using bleach, as it's too risky. Another trip to the industrial supply place for a load of peroxide. When all that's been done, the hard part is mostly over. From there, I'll need to fix the damaged jaw segment, articulate the whole mess, and mount it. If all goes to plan this will be done in time for Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty damn awesome man. Funny thing: This series gets really creepy if you assume whale is a euphemism for like, a decaying corpse (excluding all the pictures and only the text)