Saturday, February 5, 2011

Week 3 Orca Articulation

Hope's week began with a trip to the dentist.  Well, actually the dentists came to her.

Local dentists Henry Nichols and Dave Pitts spent two full days attaching the lower jaw and adjusting her bite so that these powerful teeth fit together perfectly.  The teeth are actually casts of the original teeth.  You can learn why we had to make these "orca-dentures" and how we did it HERE.

Volunteers Kim Kopp and Laura Rosenburg have been working non-stop for the past three weeks reconstructing bone damage to the skull.  Here's a look at their amazing work.

Both pectoral flippers are nearly complete.  "Team Flipper" put in many hours using cat scan images of the right flipper to place each tiny bone in exactly the right spot.  The final step is adding layers of clear silicon caulk to replace the cartilege.

Repairs began on the small, v-shaped, chevron bones which fit under the tail section of the spine.  One of these was sliced by a flensing knife when the flesh was being removed from the tail before it was buried in the manure pile. Volunteers Chole and Eliza crafted a special piece made of paper clips and water putty to replace this sliced off bit.

Marine Mammal veterinarian, Dr. Pete Schroeder, stopped by to check on our progress.  Dr. Schroeder was one of the first people to respond the stranding in 2002 and has followed the study of this whale closely ever since.  He helped us piece together some questions we had about the bone deterioration in the skull and the placement of the teeth.  In talking with Dr. Schroeder, it seems that Hope had bone loss in her skull which was likely related to the infection she had when she died.  He also helped us work on placing some of the ribs.

Work began on the rib cage early this week. This is a particularly finicky part of the process, especially with the forward ribs which each have two parts and are connected to the sternum.  Progress is slow, but steady as we ensure that each rib is perfectly spaced, oriented correctly and flows into the rib cage with its neighbors.  It takes time but the result is beautiful!

In case you haven't noticed, we got cool t-shirts and hats this week, too!  Thanks to a generous sponsor, all the proceeds from the shirts and hats go directly to the Orca Project Capital Campaign fund.  This campaign will fund our future Ocean Science Hall and the programming and exhibits that will make it an amazing place filled with vibrant science in action. You can get your own shirt during our open houses over the next two weekends-- open house times are here.

Last but not least, Hope made the news.  Check out this clip from King 5 television.

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