Woody, a popular Steller sea lion at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward that died in November 2015 at the age of 22, has continued educating students about Alaska’s marine wildlife even after his death.
This fall, Woody’s skeletal remains helped students in Lee Post’s Marine Skeleton Articulation class at the Kachemak Bay Campus learn about anatomy and physiology and even art. In conjunction with the college’s Semester By the Bay program, Post has offered marine mammal articulation classes for the past few years. Woody is the fourth skeleton Post and his students have cleaned, repaired and assembled.
Last Wednesday, Post and several of his students moved pieces of Woody from a classroom in Bayside building, across the parking lot and upstairs to temporary display in the Pioneer Hall Commons. The class built a special stand for the skeleton and had to attach Woody’s body to the stand and then his skull and flippers. KBC Director Carol Swartz said the SeaLife Center loaned the bones to the college for Post’s class in return for having the bones reassembled.
Post, known as “the Boneman” and the author of a series of manuals on preparing and articulating skeletons, said the bones came to the class after having been partially cleaned by beetles.
“It was kind of stinky,” he said.
The bones then went into barrels filled with water so bacteria could continue the cleaning process.
“Which worked until one of the barrels started leaking,” Post said.
Soaking in a peroxide solution further cleaned the bones. Some teeth came up missing and students had to craft replacements. The fake teeth were good enough that KBC Biology Professor Debbie Boegge-Tobin took several minutes trying to identify them. When the bones were clean, students had to identify the bones by part, number them, and even sketch them.
Woody was one of the original SeaLife Center residents and came to the center in May 1993 from the Vancouver Aquarium with females Sugar and Kiska when they were all 5 years old, according to a SeaLife Center press release announcing Woody’s death in 2015. Woody outlived both females. He was humanely euthanized after he developed age-related complications. At the center, Woody had been a popular attraction known for his size of 2,400 pounds, his personality and his intelligence. More than 2 million visitors saw Woody during his life there.
“The legacy of Woody,” Swartz said.
Woody remains on display in Pioneer Hall into January.