Monday, May 15, 2006

Whale Bone Returns to Lanes Cove

For many years a whale bone was a feature of Lanes Cove. It was located on the land side of Lanes Cove Rd, near the stone walls that made up the coal bin of the Lanesville Granite Company. A few years ago it disappeared, and a sign was soon posted asking for its return. I'm guessing it ended up in someone's backyard. This morning my wife said "come quick" and looking outside I saw the vertebra, resting in its old location. We talked to our painter who was working outside yesterday (he's Brazilian and doesn't speak English) and the impression we got was that two men dropped it off from a pickup truck.

After inquiring at Cape Ann Online, I received these replies:

Buddy Gendreau found it while diving next to the Plum Cove ledges in 1969. It was stolen about five years ago. One of the people who stole it must have been Brian Swanson a good friend of everyone, so it is not viewed as a horrible crime. Brian put it in his fathers yard, in between Viking Street and Rockwood Lane, but his father soon died and the house was sold. Buddy lives about 300 feet away and just found out a few months ago. The police were called and the new owner of the house said Buddy could have it back. We were going to mount it closer to the shack. I called Peter Pybot about it awhile ago but Buddy wanted to hold off on the story until things were worked out because you cannot own a whale bone that was found after 1972 and the old paper work had to be found.

Unperennial Junior
Glad to hear it was returned. I recall originating a post about it on this board when it was in the Lanes Cove Harbor, so it was there at the founding of this board, Sep 2001, and had to have been stolen sometime after that. I always felt that it might have been the posting on this board that led to its being "discovered" and pinched by people unknown. Glad to hear otherwise.

Posted: 5/9/06 7:15 pm
New Post Re: Whale Vertebra Returns to Lanes Cove IMAGES ONLINE Interesting. I know the owners of a whale's jaw, but it's been private property since the early 1970's. Believe it came up from the deep during the Triple Blizzards of Feb. 1969, out near Hodgekins Cove, and has been resting safely, quietly in approx the same location, ever since. If they ever move, they will find a good home for it, for sure.


Posted: 5/9/06 9:03 pm
New Post Re: Whale Vertebra Returns to Lanes Cove IMAGES ONLINE Oak- Your post has me stunned if it is a different bone. If it was found in 69 near this one it must be from the same whale. From what I understand the stolen one was buried in the ground for a couple of years and suffered damage. Buddy grew up at SWStones house before reconstruction. His sister Eddie Gendreau Pistenmaa lived there last. She would take a picture out the window every day that looked of course just like the web cam. Peter Prybot will do a story soon, he took pictures when it was delivered.
Buddy says his phone is ringing off the hook from all over the country because of this site and .

Posted: 5/11/06 9:21 am
New Post Re: Whale Skull Returns to Lanes Cove I contacted the Whale Center of New England about the bone. Turns out, it isn't a vertebra at all, but a skull.

We were wondering about the estimate of 4' by 4' by 1.5' high and the picture explains it all. This is not a vertebra at all- it is a skull (or at least part of one). The picture on the website is looking from the tail towards the skull- the big hole that you see in the center is the opening for the spinal column to meet the brain. That changes everything! Now instead of one of our larger whale species, this is likely to be one of the smallest. It is definitely a baleen whale (blue, humpback, fin, etc. are all baleen whales). The two-year old humpback in our exhibit has a skull that is five or more feet across, so your animal is (I'd estimate) about 20' or so. By the size, I would say that it is either a minke whale or a fin or humpback whale calf. (My boss looked at it and his guess is a humpback whale calf, because the skull is pretty broad). If it is only four feet long then it must be missing the front of its skull- it should be much longer than it is broad. I've attached a couple pictures of our humpback skeleton so that you can see what I mean. One is a picture of the skull from the front, so that you can see the elongated top jaw. The other is the best I could do of the skull from behind- you can see the parallels with the picture you sent, but you have to look around the ribs and vertebra. Thanks again for your question and for sending me to the photo- I like the opportunity to be a whale detective J. Take care, Kate

Kate Sardi
Assistant Director
Stranding Coordinator
The Whale Center of New England

Posted: 5/11/06 4:54 pm
New Post Re: Whale Vertebra Returns to Lanes Cove I always thought it was a scull because it looks like it has eye sockets. The missing jaw says it all to me. Oaks friends must have the jaw piece from that whale as I said because it was found about in the same place during the same year. Hodgkins Cove is near Plum Cove.

Posted: 5/12/06 6:53 am
New Post Re: Whale Vertebra Returns to Lanes Cove Hmmm...I think we all need lessons in whale anatomy. I think whale eyes are pretty small. If they fit in those sockets, they'd be as big as basketballs.

Maybe someone who has the other whale bone will donate it to the Lanes Cove Whale Skeleton Open Air Museum.

Posted: 5/12/06 8:50 am
New Post Re: Whale Vertebra Returns to Lanes Cove I'll do more work on it, ASAP. It's been in the care of good folks, who care deeply about such things, preservation, conservation, education, and would never dream of profiting , or plundering, the artifact, and would have no contact with whatever yahoos of the time, would have been out there, then or since. In 1969, there were plenty of them around the Back Shore from GHB to the EP Lighthouse, and there were tons of stuff which come up over seawalls, crossed roadways like Atlantic Rd, all the way across the road into the bushes, tossed like pebbles.
I was a brand new mother at the time, the infant born during the storm, with 3 children under 4 yrs., suddenly, after fearing there would not be any children, and was totally swamped with such responsibilities, and excitement.

I think I knew one person in the Lanesville area, who I just saw this week at a meeting. I also knew the then Supt. of Schools, who lived up above the Folly Cove area. So I'm not convinced that the jaw I referred to, even came from Lanesville. It might have been found up and in back of the Mother Ann Rock Formation, on Audubon land, in the now being restored marsh there, north of the Lighthouse, or even in the tidepool between the EPYC and the Parking Lot. The elements airlifted all kinds of secrets of the past in that storm, all along the New England coast. .

Posted: 5/13/06 3:17 pm
New Post Re: Whale Vertebra Returns to Lanes Cove Bud Gendreau is happy again. By Peter Prybot

The 63-year-old Lane's Cove elder and retired commercial diver who specialized in sea urchin harvesting found his stolen whale skull.

Gendreau has just returned it to its former site at the Cove just off the dirt road between Andrews and Duley streets, where his father's memorial, a red maple tree, was planted.

"The Cove is back to normal," Gendreau said.

'Looked like a rock'

While diving for conches (snail-like edible mollusks) off his boat during the summer of 1970 in the 20-foot-deep sandy gully covered with Irish moss and kelp between the innermost Plum Cove Ledges and the shoreline off Rowley Shore, Gendreau stumbled upon something "that was gray, looked like a rock and had some kelp growing on it."

"I knew right away it was a whale skull. I've been over that spot 100 times, but I just didn't see it before," he said.

The animal must have died elsewhere. The currents tend to wash things inward and eventually ashore. This creature whose skull this was could have also washed over the Plum Cove Ledges, a high surf area during nor'easters and broken apart in the process.

During his diving days, Gendreau has brought up oddities from the ocean floor, like a sunken skiff and many artifacts, including a brass crucifix, a dead-eye made out of lignum vitae and even a 10,000-pound anchor, but never a whale skull.

He later secured a rope to his find and towed it to just below the high tide mark at Lane's Cove, where the public boat ramp is today.

At low tide, "it took five guys to lift the skull into the back of a pickup truck. It was soaked and it stunk," Gendreau said.

The skull measured approximately 6 feet wide and 4 feet long and weighed well over 250 pounds. It had the snout-like protrusion that whale skulls characteristically have.

Gendreau first stored the skull at his mother's yard off Andrews Street, later at his former home off Woodbury Street and lastly down at Lane's Cove.

The skull constantly caught the attention of onlookers. Someone even anonymously placed a whale vertebra on top of it.

The elements gradually lightened the skull's gray color; they did not eliminate that distinctive whale bone odor.

Gendreau had cleared the taking of the whale skull with a game warden, now retired and rumored to live in western Massachusetts. Game wardens are now referred to as Environmental Police officers.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act, enacted in 1972, now strictly prohibits the taking and possession of whale bones.

'Just bare'

Gendreau couldn't believe his eyes one morning about eight years ago as he walked past the skull site: the spot "was just bare."

"I was really mad at first, but I later figured this was some kind of a joke and the pranksters would return it," he said. "I was also surprised at how many other people were angry over the skull's disappearance."

"It was amazing something that big just disappeared and nobody knew anything about it. I had suspects, but all of my suspicions later proved to be wrong. All I knew is that the skull must have gone into the back of somebody's van or truck," Gendreau said.

The ensuing years did not erase his anxiety over the theft of the skull.

The stress even affected his cooking during the annual Mary Parisi Memorial Lane's Cove Bluefish Tournament, when he donned a chef's hat and apron and used the popular Bluefish Mollica recipe to cook up batches of tournament fish for the public.

His cooking just didn't make the grade the last couple of years.

Last October, "I got a call from a laborer friend of mine who was doing a job at a Lanesville home located off a side street. He noticed the skull in the yard right away and later called me. I quickly recognized this was the missing skull from the distance," Gendreau said.

He eventually notified the authorities. An officer from the Gloucester Police Department and the Massachusetts Environmental Police later accompanied him to the residence. The homeowners said the skull was already in the yard when they purchased the property several years ago.

The new owners told Gendreau, "No problem, you can have it."

Last week Gendreau, aided by one of the new owners and two friends, lifted the weathered skull into the back of a van for transport to the Cove.

The probable thief turned out to be a young man from the neighborhood who took the skull as a yard decoration for his parents' property.

Gendreau declined to name the individual.

"I didn't suspect him. He and his family no longer live in the area. Who is to say he stole it? His friends could have stolen the skull and dropped it off in his yard. The important thing is that the whale bone is back," Gendreau stressed.

He plans to clean up the whale skull and affix it to a granite block.


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