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A whale of a job part 7: Time to hit the panic button

Posted on 13-09-2017 by Becky Desjardins

As they say in the movies “Houston, we have a problem”.

Back in July, we cleaned a really, really, really greasy shoulder blade.  Though it was so dark it was nearly the same color as whisky, it cleaned up quite well with using the ammonia solution.  After a spray with Ethanol and drying under the fume hood it went back in the collections.  However,  I walk by it many times in a day, and I noticed...it is leaking oil again and getting darker in color.

This shoulder blade is from a recent specimen, a fin whale from 2011. It was macerated though perhaps for not long enough.  Six years in the collection is not very long to be as greasy as this specimen is!  Full disclosure: it was probably our current team that macerated it. Oops!

I suspect that in the middle of the bone there is LOTS of grease. However, there are a few different options  we can try to treat this issue. The first we will attempt is to soak the greasy end in ammonia for some time, maybe an hour.  Perhaps this way the ammonia can penetrate the bone further and really pull the grease out.  A second option is to try a higher percentage of ammonia. Currently,  we use <5%.  But perhaps we can get our hands on some higher grades.  Another option would be to try perhaps drilling some holes in the bone which will perhaps allow the ammonia to get further in.   But this of course would damage the bones, so it is not optimal.  There is another chemical, a detergent called Triton 100. This may be helpful but I am not sure how it would work on grease below the surface, but perhaps in combination with ammonia it might  help.

Stay tuned…..

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