Two local high school students reported a dead killer whale on Kruzof Island near Sitka in March 2011. Jan Straley with the University of Alaska Southeast, the NOAA Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, Dr. Shannon Atkinson with University of Alaska Fairbanks and a small army of volunteers helped with the necropsy (animal autopsy and collection of information about the animal and how it might have died) and collecting the skeleton. It took nearly a year to the day to clean and prepare the skeleton to hang as a permanent display in the Sitka Sound Science Center Aquarium.
Dem Bones Killer Whale Skeleton Rearticulation Project
The project was funded by generous support from Sitka Permanent Charitable Trust, NOAA Alaska Region, North Pacific Research Board, Skaggs Foundation and the Karsh Family Foundation.
Read more about the rearticulation process here: Dem Bones Summary
A team from the Idaho Virtualization Laboratory, funded by the National Science Foundation, visited Sitka before the bones were hung to scan each individual piece using a 3D laser scanner. This allowed them to make a virtual version of each bone, and build the entire skeleton in a computer. Anyone can access the VZAP website and see scanned skeletons.
SSSC’s Killer Whale can be found here. (This is a very bandwidth heavy website, there is a lot of data to explore!)
During the process of cleaning the bones, Alaina Avery, an AmeriCorps Volunteer for the Sitka Sound Science Center measured and photographed each individual bone to make a bone database. The results are summarized in the paper linked below.