Last Friday I drove to Lake Waccamaw State Park in southern North Carolina (above) for an exhibit opening. Four years ago local residents found a whale skull in several feet of water at the bottom of the lake. Through the joint efforts of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science (NCSM), the North Carolina Museum of Forestry, and the North Carolina State Parks, the whale was successfully excavated and taken back to NCSM, and near the end of 2010 Laura Kellam and I were invited by Vince Schneider at the NCSM to participate in describing this specimen.
We eventually determined that the skull was from the small balaenid Balaenula, and we’re still in the process of writing a manuscript about the specimen. In the meantime, the skull has been returned to Lake Waccamaw for exhibit in the park’s visitor center, with the official opening taking place last Friday.
The community around Lake Waccamaw has really embraced this whale, and it was standing room only at the opening. The skull is in the main lobby of the visitor center, the first thing you see as you walk in through the front door, and should be a great attraction for the park. Both the exhibit itself and the opening ceremony were great successes, and I encourage anyone in the area to stop by the park to see the only specimen of Balaenula on exhibit in North America.
I’ll post additional updates about this whale as our study of it progresses.