El Refugio De Potosí – A Center for Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Education


Our Whale Story

El Refugio de Potosi is custodian to the only sperm whale skeleton on display in Mexico. At 18 meters, it seems to be the largest on exhibit in the world.

Much to the dismay of the residents of Playa Blanca, the decomposing whale drifted on to the rocks in front of Guamilule in August 2009. By great fortune, PROFEPA granted us permission to collect what we wanted.  (In Mexico, all whales are protected live or dead.)  Over a period of 6 weeks, we collected the  bones, at times tying ourselves to trees and fence posts (since yes, the waves did crash over us).  We used the usual-chain saws, machetes, ropes and brute force to free the bones from the carcass and the sea. Often the impact of the waves aided us in our efforts by pushing the bones out and onto the rocks. We carried the bones over the rocks, through the mud (it was the rainy season) and toted them back to El Refugio.  (No, they did not smell good. Yes, they were very heavy.  Yes, usually it was very hot.) Applause to us, we collected 90% of the skeleton. On the days we could not collect bones, we busied ourselves scraping off the remaining flesh and debris (another charming task). Finally, we set the bones in the sun to drain; sperm whale bones are full of oil) are full of oil. In time, the sun did its work; too much in fact.  Lee Post arrived from Alaska to guide us further; did you know there was a book with directions of how to assemble a sperm whale skeleton, "The Sperm Whale Engineering Manual"? Thank you Lee!

The mighty force of the sea left some of the bones mangled and marred. We repaired damaged bones and fabricated missing bones using our unique innovation of surf board blanks (carved and sanded to the correct shape and size) with a covering of polyester resin.

Moving the bones from one place to another became a repeated ritual until we eventually settled on the perfect spot.

With the skull and mandibles finally settled atop steel tubes, Hood River, Oregon’s, Bob Smith, naval architect extraordinaire, arrived to take us through the machinations of threading giant vertebra on to large pipe, and (no small task), supporting the remaining skeleton. Who knew you were so inventive and persistent Bob!!! (When Bob suggested we bend the 2”diameter pipe to givesome interesting form to the shape of the spine, (surely he was joking), the crew rose to the occasion by inserting the pipe through the crotch of a huge mango tree and pushing! Lots of men, lots of pushing, minor damage to the mango tree and voila!!!! a huge pipe with a gentle spinal curve.)

Protection from blasts of both tropical sun and tropical rain became the next imperative. Who wants to work on a whale skeleton beneath this sun? With creative ideas from Zihuatanejo Architect Jorge Espinosa, a roof was added. Happy days for the whale, the visitors and the workers! What a difference a roof makes! Jorge, we bow to you. Great ideas!

And now…work continues on repairing the skull. We eagerly await October for the arrival of David Evans and family to guide us through the final assembly and balancing act of the remaining bones. Our goal is to complete this by December 2015. Let’s see. El Refugio de potosi Whale Bone Availabillity Chart

Whale bone Godfather sponsorships are sold Out.
Thank you!

Godfather sponsorships are sold out, but your contributions are still needed and the bone map is interesting to look at. Click on the map to expand the image. Please visit our Participate page or contact El Refugio de Potosi to help with the project and make contributions.

El Refugio de potosi Whale Project



Sperm whales live
mainly underwater.
Generally only visit the surface to breathe. It is the mammal that dives deep - has been documented to reach 1.130 meters deep, although it is believed they can reach 3.000 meters and stay underwater for up to two hours.

Sperm whales feed almost exclusively on fish and squid from the depths, but their diet can include anything from sea sponges to sharks up to 4 feet long.


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