Rudy will join Rosie at the Coupeville Wharf

Dec 31 2005
By Nathan Whalen

In February 2004, an old Dall's porpoise was discovered dead near the Clinton ferry dock. Instead of disposing of the marine mammal, volunteers preserved its skeleton, hoping to use it as an educational display.

That dream is nearly realized, as the porpoise will soon be ready for display in the Coupeville Wharf building, right next to Rosie, a gray whale skeleton.

Volunteers estimate that the porpoise, named after Latin lover Rudolph Valentino because it was discovered around Valentine's Day, is approximately 20 years old.

"He was an old, old animal," said Matt Klope, and Oak Harbor wildlife biologist who volunteers for the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network. He said the seven-foot-long Rudy had numerous broken and re-healed bones, worn down teeth and bone disease that was plaguing parts of the skeleton.

Klope has worked, off and on, for the past eight months preserving Rudy. The process included boiling the bones to remove oils and remnants and then bleaching them. He said it was meticulous work because volunteers had to keep track of the order of the bones to ensure proper reassembly.

The flippers proved to be the most difficult parts to reassemble. To help with the process, volunteers took the animal to be X-rayed, which provided a detailed image of the order and spacing of the bones, Klope said. That was invaluable to accurately reassemble the flipper bones.

Klope, who has been involved with taxidermy since he was in junior high, said the porpoise will hang high next to the gray whale located in the lobby of the Coupeville Wharf building. The whale, "Rosie," was found washed up on a Central Whidbey beach in the '90s.
He said he would like Rudy moved to the wharf in early January. The porpoise will be placed out of reach of the public. Klope said the skeleton is too fragile for people to continually touch.

Rudy and Rosie won't be the only skeletons hanging at the Coupeville Wharf. Klope said he will soon start working on a yet-to-be-named harbor porpoise, which is about five feet in length.

There are plans to place several other animals in the same exhibit space in an effort to expand the educational displays.

A California sea lion skeleton and a harbor seal skeleton will be placed in glass cases for display for the public too see. Klope said he will stuff and mount a seal pup and preserve a pup's pelt for the wharf. He said that people will be able to touch the pelt but the remaining items will be safely out of reach.

In addition to the animal skeletons, a host of other educational exhibits could go into the wharf.

Dot Irvin, program coordinator for the WSU Beach Watchers, said there will be view screens that will show images from an underwater camera that will be put in Penn Cove, as well as a "plankton station." She said volunteers have to be careful to find the best way to put up new displays in the tight space that the wharf building offers. The displays will be placed in the lobby between the various businesses.

The displays will help the Beach Watchers with their educational efforts. Numerous groups are working together to develop the displays. The Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network provided the skeletons, woodworking students from Coupeville High School are building the educational kiosks for the flat panel screens and the Port of Coupeville provided the space in the wharf for the skeletons.

Equipment such as the camera and the plankton station was purchased from the Poulsbo Marine Science Center, which closed early last summer. Funding for the equipment purchases came from the Beach Watchers and Marine Resources Committee, Irvin said.
She said more fund-raising has to take place before the project is complete.

To help with the fund-raising, the commissioners of the Port of Coupeville agreed earlier this month to allow the Beach Watchers to sell bricks that will be placed in the gravel area near the Port's kiosks. Those bricks will have names engraved, similar to those around the Veterans Memorial at the Courthouse Annex Building.

Jim Patton, executive director of the Coupeville port, said he has been looking at ways to replace the gravel surrounding the kiosks and thought the Beach Watchers' plans were a good idea.

Irvin said a price structure for the bricks hasn't been worked out yet. That will come up in coming months.

© Copyright 2005 Whidbey News Times


Reproduced with permission