Humpback whale skull retrieved from island

Thu, 02/04/2021 - 5:30pm

Island resident Brian Casey was out walking the beach in early January when he found a skull and called his uncle Jon Dodd, the Executive Director of the Atlantic Shark Institute in Rhode Island.

Dodd told The Block Island Times: “On Jan. 2, I got a text from my nephew Brian Casey who lives on the island. Brian lives off of Cooneymus Road on the southwest corner. He was walking the beach by Southwest Point, and he found the skull. He sent me a text and asked if I had any idea of what the skull was. It was clear it was a whale’s skull. I sent it off to a friend, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute identified it as a humpback whale skull,” said Dodd.

On Saturday, Jan. 30, the skull was removed by the Atlantic Shark Institute and a team of six volunteers, in an effort to get the skull off the beach and to the mainland.

“It became a recovery effort,” said Dodd. “What I did was I built a wooden cradle based on what the dimensions were so that six people could carry the skull and socially distance. This past weekend we got on the ferry and headed out – my wife Joan and I. Brian was a big help, as was [island resident] Jules Craynock. We met at Brian’s house, and Brian had a team of people. We all drove and headed down to the beach and [then] hiked up the beach. By the time we got everything going, we had to get the skull onto the cradle and strap it down. We carried it a distance, put it down, and shifted positions – it was quite the process. We finally got it to the truck and slid it in the back,” said Dodd.

“A big crowd at the ferry came over. It became quite the center of attention for a while, and we described what we were doing,” said Dodd.

The skull is now back in South Kingstown, R.I.

“The R.I. Audubon Society will be coming over on Tuesday/Wednesday to take a look – they were first to express interest in the skull,” said Dodd.

“The hope is to clean it up and to put it on display for folks to get a look at a unique skull. Hopefully people can look at it for years to come. The whale will teach people for a long time,” added Dodd.