Archive for the ‘Whale Festival’ Category

Page 1 of 2 12

It’s a Whale of a Project!

Posted on: April 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm by Julia Conway
Discovery Center

Noyo Center Community Learning Center rendering

In conjunction with Phase II of the Coastal Trail construction, plans are starting to move forward for the permanent home of the Noyo Center for Marine Science at the south end of the Georgia Pacific mill site.  The map linked here provides the site plan for both the recently constructed and opened Phase I at the north end of the property, and the areas currently under construction in Phase II.

The planned campus will include a 5600 square foot Community Learning Center, The Whale House, which will be the new home of the Blue Whale skeleton, currently under restoration, and a proposed marine science research facility.

The Discovery Center is envisioned as the main public exhibit space accommodating up to an estimated 150,000 visitors per year. The main features will include:

  • Aquaria, interactive exhibits, and touch pools
  • Interpretation of sustainable design features
  • Discovery Cafe
  • Auditorium and small outdoor amphitheater
  • Gift Shop
  • Interactive courtyard and restored gardens
  • Living Roof


A whale of a good time in Fort Bragg!

Posted on: February 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm by Julia Conway
whale tail

Gray whale, photo courtesy of Jennifer Hendershott


The annual migration of the California Gray Whale is here, and so is the annual Fort Bragg Whale Festival.  The third in a series of weekends dedicated to these amazing marine mammals, the two days are jam-packed with fun and activities.

Whale Run and Walk; Saturday, March 21 at 8:00A on the MacKerricher Haul Road, 10K and 5K run, 5K competitive walk, 5K fun walk and half-mile kids race starting at 7:30A.  More details and entry information HERE.

Chowder Tasting; Saturday, March 21 11:00A – 1:00P at Town Hall, your favorite local restaurants compete for the title of People’s Choice, come early to make sure you taste all the entries before they run out!  $10 admission, North Coast Brewing Company will be there serving up tasty beverages.

Microbrew Beer Tasting; Saturday, March 21, 12:00N – 4:00P at the Eagles Hall.  21 and over only please, $30 admission.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse; Saturday and Sunday, docent-led whale watching tours (weather permitting), lens tours and walks to nearby Frolic Cove with the story of the clipper brig Frolic, wrecked in July of 1850.

MacKerricher State Park; Family-friendly scavenger hunt, paint the whale skeleton, slide show (March 20th), docent-led whale  and wildlife walks/talks.  Harbor seals, sea lions and elephant seals are also calving and visible on the offshore rocks.

Book a whale watching tour from Noyo Harbor.  Check out the details HERE.

Take a Whale Walk on the new Coastal Trail; Sunday March 22 10:00A – 11:00A, $12 and kids under ten free when accompanied by an adult, includes tour and a special whale-themed souvenir, call the Chamber for tickets and info 707-961-6300.

Watch the whales from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, open daily.

Don’t miss the fun!  Book your room today!

Guest Article*; the story of Fort Bragg’s Blue Whale

Posted on: February 16, 2015 at 8:36 am by Julia Conway

Articulating the Noyo vision, bone by bone

In 2009, a lethal strike from a ship’s propeller off the Mendocino coast tragically killed a 73-foot female blue whale. This ship-strike, a leading threat to these magnificent mammals, has been turned into a story of Fort Bragg’s community coming together around the vision of the Noyo Marine Science Center.

At Noyo, we believe that the desire to learn about and protect our marine environment will only come with a powerful emotional connection to the amazing underwater world.

Our dream is to turn our blue whale bones into a world-class exhibit that will represent the Noyo vision to:

  • Create a space in which scientists, artists and the public (of all ages) can work together, learn from each other and create multi-disciplinary opportunities
  • Captivate and draw young minds toward a deeper level of inquiry and connection with the marine world
  • Inspire our local population and attract visitors to the Mendocino coast


Blue whale skeleton

Artist’s rendering of the articulated skeleton


The story of “our” whale:


When the devastating news that a 73-ft long female blue whale had suffered a lethal injury from a ship’s propeller off our coast in 2009 became public, the community of Fort Bragg came together.  Seeing this beautiful whale washed up on shore was so moving that members of our community voiced an idea to salvage the skeleton for Fort Bragg, regardless of the fact that there would be no agency or university leading the effort.  Working with NOAA, the City was able to obtain rights to acquire the skeleton for eventual public display.  More than 200 people walked away from their normal lives to participate in an unprecedented community effort to haul 70-tons of bones and blubber up a 40-foot cliff and bury the whale in compost out in the forest.  It was a monumental task.

Students from all over got a once-in-a-lifetime blue whale-sized anatomy lesson during the flensing process as we worked with national experts to provide as many samples for research as possible.

After four years of sitting in compost and sand in large pits in the forest, our amazing volunteers once again came together with the City of Fort Bragg to carefully dig out each bone.  Thankfully, microbes and insects had done a good job, and most of the flesh was gone.  Some bones, like the caudal vertebrae near the tail, were still encased in very strong connective tissue and had to be put back in compost to finish the job.  The bones were trucked to the wastewater treatment plant in Fort Bragg where we have been cleaning and scrubbing them (what a great place for this dirty job!)

The skeleton is now in storage awaiting funding to begin the next stage of the restoration process: degreasing to remove the (extremely smelly!) internal oils.

Cleaning – We have already come a long way in preparing our blue whale skeleton for display.  Members of our community who helped to collect the skeleton flensed away about 70 tons of flesh to extract the bones.  We have since relied on composting, insects and soil microorganisms to remove the remaining soft tissues and we’re ready to move on to the next stage.

Degreasing – Whale bones are composed of both compact and cancellous hard tissues.  Compact bone is found in the outer regions of bones and in the load-bearing regions of the skeleton.  It is solid and dense.  Cancellous bone, on the other hand, is sponge-like.  It is less rigid and is filled with oil that serves as a nutrient reserve and aids in buoyancy in living whales.  Did you know that this oil can comprise up to 40-50% of the weight of a blue whale skeleton??!

Left alone, the oil quickly becomes rancid and unbelievably stinky in saturated whale bones.  Understandably, for a public display, 100% of this stinky oil must be removed.  Extracting the oil without damaging the hard bony tissues is by far the biggest challenge in the job of preparing a whale skeleton for display and this step will take several months to complete carefully.  We are currently working with a team of experienced scientists to plan our degreasing strategy and we are working hard to raise funds to get this step underway.

Restoration – Since our whale encountered a ship’s propeller, several vertebrae and parts of the skull have been damaged.  We want the public to know the story of our whale’s death so we plan to do minimal repair to these areas.  However, more trauma to the skeleton occurred when the carcass was washed up on the beach since whale skeletons are not built for bearing their own weight on land. We plan to restore these broken bones to their original condition.

There are many great artistic products that are available to articulators and museum conservators to do this kind of restoration.  This stage is very fun and will involve learning blue whale anatomy in great detail and calling on a talented team of artists to repair, sculpt and paint the broken areas to restore the skeleton.  Next, we’ll be ready to put our bones back together.

Articulation  – The world of a whale remains mysterious to most of us since the vast amount of its time is spent below the surface of the ocean.  Most historic articulations of large whales portray, well, the dead whale that was found on land.  The recent advancement of underwater remote sensing technology has shed much light on the amazingly dynamic lives that whales actually lead under water and off-shore.  This has allowed the science of whale skeleton articulation to progress beyond an anatomical exercise into an exciting discipline that fuses science and art.

Using top-quality artistic materials and cutting edge articulation techniques, we plan to design a dynamic, scientifically accurate and elegant display that will breathe life.  The exhibit will allow people of all ages to intimately experience the life and ecology of a whale up close.  Visitors will connect with the vastness of the marine environment of the Mendocino coast and beyond, and continue toward a deeper learning experience at the Noyo Center.

We are thrilled to have Cetacea Contracting, renowned in modern skeleton articulation techniques, on our team to help lead us through the skeleton building process. Check out their website to see some more examples of dynamic skeleton articulations and see the image below for an idea of the possibilities available for our blue whale skeleton exhibit.

If you would like to learn more about this exciting project or see how you can get involved, please contact us or donate today!

* Content courtesy of the Noyo Center for Marine Science

Ten Great Reasons to come to Fort Bragg now!

Posted on: January 3, 2015 at 12:49 pm by Julia Conway
Paul House last day 2014

The last sunset of 2014 from photographer Paul House


1.  Whales!  The annual migration of the California gray whale begins in December and peaks in the winter months.

2.  No crowds.  On a winter day  in Fort Bragg, there’s no waiting in line; not for a coffee, not for lunch, not for a parking space.

3.  Walks.  Whether it is along the ocean, in the redwoods or just down to the beach, there’s a walk for everyone.

4.  Crab!  Boats are bringing fresh Dungeness crab into Noyo Harbor daily.  You can enjoy the delectable and seasonal treat in our local restaurants, or pick up one in the harbor or at a local grocer.

5.  Waterfalls.  A short walk through Otis Johnson Park or at Russian Gulch State Park and you can visit the magic of winter in the woods.

6.  Mushrooms.  Wild mushroom season is not limited to the fall months.  Whether you forage or just hunt with a camera, there is still plenty of natures bounty to capture.  You will see oyster, yellowfoot, black trumpet, candy caps and more, just look down along the edges of our roads and trails.  Once you have the “mushroom eye” you will never look at the woods in the same way again.

7.  Deals!  Lodging rates in Fort Bragg have never been better.  Check out our listings of cozy B&B’s or family-friendly motels and hotels for winter season specials.

8.  Quiet!  Did we say this was the quiet time of year?  Other than the booming of the surf or the staccato tempo of the rain on the roof, there’s nothing to disturb the peace.  After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, there’s nothing we like more.

9.  Waves.  Did we mention the spectacular winter surf in Fort Bragg?  King tides and storm swells from the north Pacific combine to bring some of the most awe-inspiring ocean views you can imagine.  Of course, watch from a safe distance and never turn your back on the ocean.  For a sample, click on this link

10.  Sunsets!  Winter is sunset season on the Mendocino Coast, and Fort Bragg is no exception.  Night after night of ever-changing rainbows.  See if you can spot the elusive “green flash” or better yet, catch it with your camera.  Visit our Facebook page at to see the collection of sunset photos from our local photographers and fans.

Tell about your favorite things to do in Fort Bragg in the winter season!

Where Do You Find the World’s Best Beaches? You Start in Fort Bragg

Posted on: March 16, 2014 at 7:00 am by bruce

Glass Beach Treasure, Fort Bragg, CaliforniaTravel blogs, magazines and newspapers (printed and Web-based) regularly publish stories about the best destinations to visit or where you can find the most romantic getaway or best beach.

In fact, the New York Times recently said the Mendocino Coast (where you will find Fort Bragg) is #3 among 52 must-see destinations in 2014.

There is a good reason for that endorsement: it’s isolated from big city hustle-bustle (100 miles from the nearest big shopping mall or Apple Store), but has plenty to offer in Downtown Fort Bragg (where you’ll find lots to buy and friendly merchants to serve you). You may be a long way from the big box stores, but you are minutes away from a world of beauty, including world-class botanical garden, ecological staircase, a pygmy forest, a waterfall, giant redwoods, a beach piled high with beautiful sea glass, surfing, abalone diving, whale watching, seaweed farming, horseback riding (beach and forest), a microbrewery, a working lighthouse with original Fresnel lens, a real blue whale skeleton, and five California State Parks or preserves. Did we mention pristine beaches that stretch for miles?

If you need more reasons to visit — such as festivals or special events – we’ve got those, too:

Annual Whale Festival – Saturday and Sunday, March 15 & 16 (just this past weekend)

Fourth of July Fireworks – Saturday, July 5

World’s Largest Salmon Barbecue – Saturday, July 5

Paul Bunyan Days – Aug. 29-Sept. 1

Holiday Lights Parade – Saturday, December 6

Then, of course, there are simple pleasures everyone can enjoy (and most of these you won’t find in your town).


Whale Festival to Feature Blue Whale Bones and New Science ant Art Festival

Posted on: March 12, 2014 at 12:45 pm by bruce

The Noyo Center for Marine Science — future home of Fort Bragg’s 75-foot Blue Whale skeleton — is sponsoring the first annual Marine Science and Art Fair  1pm-4pm, Sunday, March 16, at Town Hall, 363 N. Main Street (corner of Laurel and Main) in Fort Bragg. It’s the newest addition to the Fort Bragg Whale Festival.

This year’s fair will feature science and art projects from local kids in grades kindergarten through 6th at the Montessori Del Mar School.

Noyo Center staff has worked with students in a pilot education program, introducing students to marine mammals and the Fort Bragg Blue Whale. Hands‐on scientific investigation, inventions, and creativity are the focus of the fair as the kids explore the concepts of size in marine mammals.

Fort Bragg Whale Festival Scheduled for Saturday, March 15

Posted on: March 10, 2014 at 9:50 am by bruce

If you haven’t already gotten your tickets for various Whale Festival Activities, it’s not too late. In fact  you can just decide at the last minute to attend various events and purchase them at the door, so to speak. Whatever you decide to do, do not miss this Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce created event, which is supported by the Fort Bragg Promotion Committee.

Here is a rundown of what’s coming up this weekend.

Whale Festival Offers Some of the Best Chowders Ever

Posted on: March 5, 2014 at 5:31 am by bruce

One of the highlights of the Fort Bragg Whale Festival each year is the chowder tasting. This year the tasting takes place Saturday, March 15, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (or until the chowder runs out) at Town Hall, 363 Main Street in Historic Downtown Fort Bragg.

Providing mouth-watering tastes of their own special chowder creations will be chefs from nine great local restaurants, including Cafe One, Cliff House, Harvest Market, Living Light , North Coast Brewing Company, Angelina’s, The Restaurant, JJ’s Family Restaurant and Laurel Cafe and Deli.

The cost is just $10. Click here to buy tickets in advance. Or you can buy them at the door. Happy tasting!


Find Out What Time the Whales Come by (LOL) … Don’t Miss MacKerrricher Whale Talks

Posted on: February 16, 2014 at 5:11 am by bruce

Gray Whale Skeleton at MacKerricher Visitor Center

Spouting Gray Whale

A funny story that is true: our local chamber of commerce office each year gets a few visitors who ask, ‘what time to the whales go by?’ LOL.

Well, the whales are coming and going all the time — day and night, year-around. Blues. Grays. Humpbacks. Even Orcas. But the big migration of Gray Whale begins in December as they head south to the warm lagoons of Mexico to birth their calves or breed. Then they head north in February-April on their way home to feeding grounds cold waters of Alaska. The migration is supposed to be 20,000 strong. It is not surprising that on some days you can’t look out and not see pods of whales spouting.

To make your whale watching more fun,  California State Parks and the Mendocino Area Parks Association continue weekend whale talks at MacKerricher State Park on the following dates leading up the he 32nd Annual Fort Bragg Whale Festival on March 15 & 16 and beyond:  February 15 & 16, 22 & 23; March 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15 & 16, 22 & 23, 29 & 30.

Knowledgeable docents talk about the annual gray whale migration and about other marine mammals seen along the Mendocino coast. Programs are scheduled at 11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday at MacKerricher.

Get talk details by clicking here. 

On the Calendar: February Highlights

Posted on: January 26, 2014 at 2:48 pm by bruce

Like the rest of California, the drought has hit Fort Bragg.  We’ve had only 2.5 inches of rain this year (normal is 30+ inches). The non-stop sunshine has left us with picture postcard days, blue skies and temperatures around the mid-60’s (a heatwave for us).

Of course, rain may be coming (we hope). No matter, there is always something to do in our tiny seacoast town for a weekend or a week — indoors or out.

Here are a few reasons to visit in February.

  • Four North Coast artists are exhibiting their work at Partners Gallery: Helen Troxel (six new abstract mixed media pieces), on canvas, Sonya Popow (sculptural pots in sawdust or saggar fired terra cotta),  Jonathan Palmer (cut paper and plexiglas rods) and Lisa Orselli’s (encaustic and sometimes fabric, wasp paper and graphite).>
  • Every Friday and Saturday evening: North Coast Brewing presents Dinner Jazz from 6 to 9 pm in the Sequoia Room at the Brewery Taproom. The menu includes dinner specials and pizza from the stone hearth oven along with hand-crafted ales.
  • February 1-March 28:Weekend Whale Talks at MacKerricher State Park. Knowledgeable docents talk about the annual gray whale migration and about other marine mammals seen along the Mendocino coast. Programs are scheduled every Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Learn more.
  • February 8&9: Symphony of the Redwoods’ Winter Concert,  February 8 (8pm ) and 9 (2 pm), Cotton Auditorium. Program:
    Sibelius’ Symphony No 1 in E Minor, op 39 and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B Minor, op 104. Featured artist: Stephen Harrison, cellist. Ticket information: 707-964-0898;
  • February 22: Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop. The focus will primarily be on, but not limited to, the pruning of fruit tree varieties appropriate to the North Coast climate, specifically apples, pears and selected stone fruits. 10 am-noon. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Meeting Room. 707-964-4352;
  • For other ideas, click here.

It’s not too late to book at room.

Page 1 of 2 12