Whale on the Wharf


A complete 42' skeleton of a gray whale named Gunther, on permanent display at Union Wharf in downtown Port Townsend!

When this male gray whale died and washed ashore near Port Ludlow in May 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Marine Mammal Stranding Network was notified. Nearby residents Dr. Stefanie Worwag and Mario Rivera, volunteers with the Stranding Network, responded to the whale and subsequently offered to let it decompose on their beachfront property, where scientists and volunteers from Cascadia Research, SR3, and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) conducted a necropsy.

Worwag and Rivera, who named the whale “Gunther”, then gained permission from NOAA to prepare the bones and display the skeleton, beginning a multi-year process rebuilding this remarkable creature. They were joined by industrial designer Les Schnick and shipwright Ric Brenden, who volunteered to create a mount for the massive skeleton. From the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to 2023, hundreds of volunteer hours were put in cleaning, painting, drafting, drilling, welding, and more. Eventually Gunther was moved to Dr. John Barrett’s property for final assembly.

The couple approached PTMSC for public display location ideas, leading to a collaboration with the City of Port Townsend and the Port of Port Townsend. PTMSC secured donations and permits needed to complete the installation so that this wondrous creature and his story in the Salish Sea could be shared with you.


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