We are Going to Need a Bigger Helicopter

Working at a National Park results in a fair share of interesting encounters. Take for instance, yesterday when my boss emails me and says, “The Coast Guard is helping us move a humpback whale skull out of the intertidal, are you interested in watching?” Obviously, he knows me well and that my ocean nerdom would be piqued by such an enticing adventure, but why I pondered would we need to call in the USCG for help?

…oh that’s right…cause they have a helicopter.

I must admit it had never occurred to me that one can’t simply lift a 200lb. whale skull out of the intertidal without recruiting a MH-60 Jayhawk. This is undoubtably the coolest tool I have ever used for science.

All in all, “Mission: Intertidal Whale Fall”, was a complete success as shown in the .gif-ed summary below. For those who are curious, on a scale of 0-worst thing I have ever smelled in the ocean….this actually wasn’t that bad.

From here, the SD Natural History museum called “dibs” on the juvenile specimen and will be burying the skeleton for around 3-6 months so all the decomposers can clean it off. The whale will then be housed within the collections at theNAT and further used for research purposes.
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Special thanks to the San Diego branch of the US Coast Guard for letting us borrow your helicopter!

Alex Warneke (95 Posts)

Alex currently resides as a Science Communicator for the National Park Service, where she inspires thousands a year to love the watery world. Alex earned her Masters degree in chemical ecology from San Diego State University investigating the effects of heavy metal pollutants on the chemical communication between organisms. In her “free time,” Alex enjoys convincing the public that Ecology is indeed sexy. With that goal, she is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and extending the broader impacts of science to the general public using the outlets of film and social media. When she is not busy busting a move or filming her next rap video, she can normally be found frolicking through the California kelp forest.


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