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Skeletal exhibit construction underway in Maine of humpback whale found on Cape Cod

The compost could take up to six months.
The compost could take up to six months. Dan DenDanto

Vector’s story isn’t over, according to a Maine man who will be using the remains of the 45-foot humpback whale as part of a new exhibit.

Dan DenDanto, a research associate at College of the Atlantic and founder of Whales and Nails, has taken Vector, the 40-ton female whale who washed up dead on East Sandwich May 5 after 34 years of annual visits to the Cape.

DenDanto is part of the network of stranding agents coordinated under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that are performing a necropsy on Vector because she showed no obvious cause of death. He will be using her bones in a re-articulation alongside a humpback whale calf he acquired more than a year ago.

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“Since that time last year I’ve had this dream, aspiration, to connect that calf skeleton in a meaningful exhibition,” DenDanto said. “Baleen female whales are bigger than males; [I’d like to] set that dichotomy of size.”

Vector was the first reported death of a humpback whale this year in Massachusetts, but more than 14 have died in the area since 2016, the Globe reported.

“I hope to see that an animal in death who taught us much about whales in her life . . . can connect in her death continued inspiration and interest in humpback whales,” DenDanto said.

DenDanto has done 18 professional commissions, including a skeletal exhibit for the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown of Spinnaker, a 35-foot-long humpback whale in 2018.

“They’re important, iconic creatures as we think about modern climate concerns,” DenDanto said. “There are ramifications to whales, too. The fact that they have such gravity to the public is what attracts me to this medium.”

He is currently using a compost area behind his work space in Seal Cove, a piece of Mount Desert Island 35 miles southeast of Bangor, to decompose the flesh off Vector before he can begin bone preservation.

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The composting could take up to six months, but Vector and the calf may already have an exhibit space reserved at the Maine State Museum when DenDanto is finished.

“A project of this nature takes a year and a half or two years or more; some can take over a decade,” DenDanto said. “While Vector is at the end of her life, the investigation into what killed her has just begun and the second chapter in how it relates to human beings is just beginning.”

Vector was the first humpback whale reported dead in Massachusetts this year
Vector was the first humpback whale reported dead in Massachusetts this yearMark Anthony Parrilla

Sabrina Schnur can be reached at sabrina.schnur@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sabrina_schnur.