David Boyd completes a special project at Prime Berth Fishery & Heritage Centre.
TWILLINGATE, NL — As you approach the causeway heading towards Twillingate, in your line of sight is the Prime Berth Twillingate Fishery & Heritage Centre, along with a display featuring a 52-foot sei whale.
In addition, you can now see a second 32-foot long sei whale skeleton on display.
Prime Berth owner/operator David Boyd single-handedly prepared the whale carcasses and assembled the bones one by one on both skeletons.
It all started in 2006 when Boyd heard about a sei whale that had died in Fortune Harbour. He towed the carcass some 30 miles back to the Prime Berth and then to an area near Trump Island, where he built an enclosure and submerged the carcass as best he could for three years. Gases from the decomposition of the whale kept it from being totally submerged.
In 2010 Boyd retrieved the bones from the “blubbery mess,” cleaned and reassembled them for display.
Fast-forward to 2016. Boyd, who also offers tours, had a group of tourists from Africa with him at Trump Island. He spotted a couple of foxes on the beach, and while moving in closer to allow his guests to take some photos, noted a deceased whale just off the beach.
“It was skinny, it had very little fat,” he said. “It had sank to the bottom with just a fin sticking out of the water.”
Boyd contacted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to report the whale carcass. He also asked if it was OK for him to retrieve the whale, and consent was given. He towed the whale back to an area near the Prime Berth in August of 2016. One year later he was able to retrieve the bones and clean them up and once again start the process of reassembling the skeleton.
It is a painstaking process of measuring each bone and putting it together correctly.
“The process was a bit easier this time, but it’s a bit like a puzzle,” he said.
Boyd fabricated the metal stands that hold the skeletal remains of both whales. In total it cost Boyd less than $1,000 to reconstruct both skeletons, along with the many hours he put in.
The first whale was a male and the second is thought to be a female.
Boyd also has full racks of baleen from the whales on display.
While Boyd encourages people to visit Prime Berth to get an up-close look at the sei whale skeletons, his hope is that while people are there they will become informed and experience in some way his love and passion for the traditional way of life and culture he experienced growing up in Tizzard’s Harbour and fishing with his father.
“We want to show people the kind of life we had in Newfoundland that’s gone by the wayside,” he said.
Boyd has welcomed over 1,200 motor coaches over the last 23 years, giving them a snapshot into a way of life with a cod splitting demonstration. In 2016 they welcomed over 90 motor coaches and they already have bookings for 2018, many of them being return tours.
“We are obviously doing our part for the tourism picture in Twillingate,” he said.
The Prime Berth Twillingate Fishery & Heritage Centre features two sei whale skeletons on display.