Installation of the Gray Whale Skeleton

The installation began on April 27, 2006, when Albert Shepard, marine mammal specialist, curator, and whale artisan, delivered the whale to the loading dock of Thompson Hall. The rib cage was too cumbersome to store in the third floor museum so it was temporarily housed in a geology lab on the ground floor. The move and installation of the whale began on Wednesday, May 3, 2006, and the installation was completed on Friday, May 5, 2006. The images below chronicle the move and installation. Many of the pictures have larger views accessible by clicking the picture.

Peter Wimberger, Interim Director with Albert Shepard (a better view later) getting ready to unload


Mac Stanton, from Sellen, with skull and rib cage.

Gary Shugart in the ribs getting ready to carry them off the truck.

Ribs stored in the geology lab.

Peter holding the ribs securely (left) and the team hooking to the lift to move the ribs to Harned Hall (right) on May 3, 2006.


The ribs on parade from the Thompson Hall parking lot down Union Avenue to Harned Hall with Isaac, Albert, Peter and Jerry holding the assembly steady.

Unhooking and getting ready to move into atrium of Harned Hall

The atrium of Harned Hall. There was a whale already in place but it was the wrong color. The beam is hanging from the ceiling mounts 39 feet above the floor and will serve as the temporary hanger for whale assembly and for lifting the whale into place prior to permanent cabling.


The ribs are hanging from the beam (left) the skull is next (right).

Peter and Jerry hang the skull and check the fit with the rib assembly.

Otto Gockman, museum assistant and work study student, installs the vertebrae with Albert giving advice. The vertebrae were predrilled by Albert. The pipe from the rear of the ribs back to the tail was bent by Albert to give the whale a graceful posture.

Otto and Isaac continues. Albert appears to be giving an impromptu lecture on whale anatomy.

The hanging points on the ceiling were not perpendicular to the skull and the angled bar provided temporary hanging points that matched those on the ceiling for testing the alignment of the skull.

Isaac and Otto on the tail, Albert, Tom, and Peter discuss the initial hanging.

Otto and Isaac finish the tail vertebrae and Gary and Albert discuss finishing details (left). Albert and Gary check alignment and skull cabling (right).

Albert with the whale.

The lumbar vertebrae had healed processes that might indicate an injury that could have eventually contributed to the whale's death.


Isaac and Otto finish the tail. The whale is hanging from the temporary beam in the final posture at the end of the day 1 on May 3. On left (larger view) Isaac is holding the final tail vertebrae that will be screwed into a fitting in the end of the mounting pipe.

The whale in the morning sunlight on May 4, 2006, prior to hoisting.


Isaac and Jerry use the come-alongs to hoist the whale into place level with the first landing.

Final height from the first landing.

Albert, Bob, Tom, Isaac, Jerry and Peter discuss the final placement, angles and hanging points (left) and view from below.


Jerry installing the 12 1/8" stainless steel hanging cables. He is 39 feet up. No need to worry about the cables. The recommended working load is about 340 lbs and breaking load is 1760 lb. The skeleton weighs about 270 lb and the head about 110 lbs. Each of eight cables on the skeleton carries only about 40 lbs and the four head cables carry about 27 lbs. When cabling was complete, Jerry and Isaac used the come-alongs to lower the whale into place in the cable harness. The alignment was perfect.

Peter tests the placement.

Peter and Albert on the first landing and Isaac on the lift discussing placement.

Peter directing ... a little to the right, no my right.

The final placement from the third floor. The temporary lifting beam is resting on the cables.

The beam was removed by cutting it in half. Isaac passes the front to Peter and Tom (left) while Jerry and Albert remove the rear (right).

Final adjustments

The right pectoral fin was permanently attached on day 2 and is held in place with a temporary bracket and rope. The gray material in the "hand" region is epoxy clay and approximates the cartilage in this region.

The end of day 2 (May 4) with the right pectoral fin in place.

Jerry and Bob from Sellen discuss the successful assembly, lifting, cabling and final placement on the morning of May 5.


The morning of May 5. The final step was to install the left pectoral fin temporarily so that it could be removed for work on the annalemma. To the right, Peter and Albert on the first landing.

Peter and Albert discussing final details and installation of the left pectoral fin.

Isaac grinds off a bolt end from inside the rib cage after left fin was attached.

The pelvic girdle remnants held in place with threaded rods.

Chevrons on the caudal vertebrae (left) and rib and vertebrae detail (right).

Details of the hanging bracket and spacers between vertebrae.

Final shots as Isaac and Albert on the lift make some final adjustments. Peter on the landing supervises.

Peter, Alyce DeMarais, Michal Morrison, Susan Bennett, and Albert discuss the installation and plans for the future.

Albert and the whale.