The Sitka Sound Science Center (SSSC) is a nonprofit Alaska-based organization promoting research, awareness, and education about the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the Gulf of Alaska. When they contacted us after acquiring the carcass of a newborn Orca whale that a local family had reported on the shoreline just south of Sitka, we were very happy to take on the job of casting, molding, and modeling the young whale’s body and creating an interactive exhibit highlighting the animal’s unique anatomy. The finished model of the 530-pound Orca will be displayed alongside the infant whale’s skeleton so as to highlight the relationship between the animal’s interior and exterior physiology.
It was very surreal receiving the freezer boxes from the airport and opening them to find frozen whale parts, but Ron got right down to the business of covering them in plaster to form hard-walled molds for casting.
Using the proportions calculated from the parts of the baby whale (we were sent only the head, tail, and fins), the animal was modeled digitally in 3D, then programmed into our CNC router, which carved the contours out of many layers of 3″ foam, which were then laminated and refined.
The Orca model is now undergoing its penultimate process, as we putty and prep the surface for painting.
In conjunction with the completion of the project, Ron will travel to Alaska to teach a workshop for Sitka High School’s Art and Design II class, where the students will use the casts of the whale’s head, tail, and fins, in addition to 3D CAT scans of the animal’s skeleton to reinforce the link between scientific art and their local ecology. We are thrilled to help support SSSC’s mission to promote science education within their community, and for their research efforts in the oceanographic community nationwide.