LONG BEACH - The skeleton of a great whale could be one of the focal points of the city's Discovery Trail if all works out as planned.

As of Sept. 16, at a city council meeting, the funding for the monument ($10,000) was approved. This funding will come out of a $36,000 grant from the Templin Foundation

And now that the funding for the skeleton has been obtained, the next step is the completion of getting it in shape for display, which has not been an easy process said Long Beach Mayor Dale Jacobson.

According to Jacobson, the great whale beached itself on shores of the Peninsula in the Long Beach vicinity and was exhumed for its skeleton last spring by city crew members, a group of Alternative High students and other interested parties.

"But it still had a lot flesh on the skeleton and this had to be boiled off, so we ended up cooking it for a week," said Jacobson. "Thanks to Peninsula ingenuity, we ended up working together to build a special boiler just for the project. It was made out of some high-tech heating equipment and a stainless steel heat exchanger. I still have it."

At this time, now that the skeleton has been cleaned of flesh and has been dried, the city is working closely with a cetacean biologist out of Seattle, and has also talked to several museums on both the West Coast and East Coast to find out the proper way to preserve the skeleton, particularly since it will be displayed in an outdoor setting.

"We were told to use a two-part epoxy, that we are putting on the bones, and this is almost complete," said Long Beach City Administrator Nabiel Shawa.

The city is also working with local welders who will construct a cage that will house the whale's skeleton. According to Shawa, the idea behind the use of a metal welded cage is to make it more approachable, compared to a glass case. He said the metal cage will allow people to actually touch the skeleton. Shawa said plans are for the skeleton and the metal cage to be mounted on a platform either made out of architectural stone or colored concrete.

The finished whale skeleton monument will be located just north of 10th street along the completed Discovery Trail.

"We are trying to locate it on a high dune so people on the boardwalk can get a good look at it, as well as people on the trail," said Jacobson. "One of the things that we want to be able to have are things along the trail which will endure beyond the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. We want to have this education opportunity to let people see what we are made of, since we are on a whale migration path."

According to Shawa, one of the elements that the city wants to incorporate with the great whale monument is a series of interpretive panels to provide information about the great whale and its migration habits in conjunction with the Peninsula. Shawa said the city is working with Washington native Garet Curtis, who has already made a mock-up of such an interpretive panel.

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