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.


Special thanks to the San Diego branch of the US Coast Guard for letting us borrow your helicopter!

Alex Warneke (112 Posts)

Alex is committed to a life of inspiring others to view science through a more dynamic and empowering lens. Alex obtained her M.Sc. in Chemical Ecology from San Diego State University and most recently resided as a Science Programs Manager and Marine Scientist for the National Park Service. As an ecologist, storyteller, and community engager, she has spanned critical boundaries between stakeholders in education, academia, non-profit, and government to translate the most current scientific bodies of work in ways that are accessible and inclusive. She is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and extending the broader impacts of science to the public using the outlets of art, digital media, education, and citizen science. Currently, Alex works at the interface of climate resilience and community with the Climate Science Alliance. As Deputy Director for the Alliance, her hope is that through her work and experience she can get the world to think differently about how we connect and impact the thriving ecosystem around us and commit to fostering a more resilient future.