VIDEO: Scientists exhume whale skeleton buried at Cape Lookout

Whale verterbrae in the trench as it is being uncovered by the team.[NPS photos / N. Toering]

A team of scientists last weekend exhumed the remains of a minke whale found dead on the beach at Cape Lookout more than two years ago. When the whale died, the National Park Service buried the animal in an out-of-the-way area to let the remains naturally decompose with the hope they could retrieve the skeleton later for research or for exhibition.

On Feb. 21, between rainy days, park staff and staff and interns from Bonehenge Whale Center in Beaufort set out to exhume the remains.

The National Park Service captured a series of images and video as crews used a front-end loader to locate the whale’s burial spot and then used shovels to uncover the skeleton and remote the bones.

Park staff, volunteers, staff & interns from the Bonehenge Whale Center in Beaufort as they prepare for the Minke Whale recovery effort. [NPS photos / N. Toering]
A front end loader was used to carefully scrape the top layer of sand off the beach in order to find the skeleton underneath. [NPS photos / N. Toering]

Found it! The first piece of the skeleton has been found!
Getting down in the trench to uncover the skeleton. Here is where the facemasks come in handy. Even though its about 2 years after the whale was buried, there is still some residual “stench” in the sand from the decomposed whale. The masks do help in reducing some of the smell.
As pieces of the skeleton are removed, they are carefully analyzed, photographed and stored.

Photo credit: NPS photos / N. Toering
Bonehenge Whale Center in Beaufort

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Kari Pugh is digital director for, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at