It’s that time of year when locals and tourists alike peer out to the water searching for the sometimes barely there signs of visiting whales.
"The whales are already here. The migrating gray whales are already streaming past Narrow Cape and I’ve been out there the last couple of weekends and seen them from the top of the cape as well as Surfer Beach, also known as Bear Paw Beach where the big pile of gravel is. Sometimes they come in really close and roll around in the waves and the surf and other times you see them way off in the distance, but there are whales here already.")
That’s Stacey Studebaker, of whale skeleton fame. About ten years ago the retired high school biology teacher found a gray whale corpse on a beach in Pasagshak and thought it would make a great science project. The community of Kodiak came together to bury the whale to allow nature to do its thing. Four years later volunteers dug up the remains and reassembled them.
"It was a pretty spontaneous decision. Being a biology teacher I’ve always been fascinated by anatomy and I’ve had kids assemble different kinds of small animal skeletons and I’d always dreamed about doing a whale. This opportunity just presented itself. Here was a whale skeleton, a nice ripe one that was accessible from the road system. Because as Kate can attest to many, many whales die and wash up on remote beaches that you can never get to and the reason this was a golden opportunity is because we could actually drive to it and get machinery and people to it to work on it."
The skeleton is on permanent display at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. The refuge- along with Kodiak’s Alutiiq, Baranov and Maritime Museums, the Kodiak College and several other local organizations- are all stops on this year’s Whale Fest schedule. Starting on Friday and going until the 30th, you can take a whale watching hike, enjoy the Alaska Ocean Film Festival, attend lectures and more.
You can find the schedule here.