Marine biologist and self-taught artist Constance Sartor has created something new at the Bonehenge Whale Center in Beaufort.
While the facility is still closed to the public, Ms. Sartor worked on a mural inside the building that depicts a mother Cuvier’s beaked whale and her calf.
Ms. Sartor, of Florida, is an undergraduate student at the University of Guam studying coral reef genetics.
She started studying science six years ago and has been working on art as a hobby for most of her life.
Ms. Sartor started the mural Tuesday and said she was excited to bring the project to life at Bonehenge.
“It falls in perfectly with what I like to do,” she said. “I love any opportunity to blend science and art together.”
According to Lee Moore Crawford, an artist and volunteer at Bonehenge who was responsible for bringing Ms. Sartor to the area, the hope of adding the mural to the site will inspire marine conservation efforts.
“We hope it creates solutions and inspires conservation,” she said.
The Cuvier’s beaked whale, or Ziphius cavirostris, Ms. Sartor painted is modeled after one that was found stranded near Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach in June 2017. It was 17.6 feet long.
Post necropsy, the bones were buried for 22 months in a shallow, sandy grave.
N.C. Maritime Museum and Bonehenge Whale Center staff and volunteers are preparing the bones for study and display.
Bonehenge Whale Center Director Keith Rittmaster said the Cuvier’s beaked whale is a deep diving whale and possibly the deepest diving mammal.
“They are hard to see and hard to photograph,” he said.
Mr. Rittmaster said beaked whales have two teeth, which only erupt out of the gums in adult males. Since beaked whales only have two teeth, they eat their food by sucking.
The Cuvier’s beaked whale has an asymmetrical skull, which the deep divers may use for sound manipulation to help hunt for food in the dark.
Another fact about the deep diving whales is the amount of plastic that has been found in their stomachs. Mr. Rittmaster said the whales have more plastic in their stomach than shallow diving mammals, such as bottlenose dolphins.
He said the plastic discovery is a mystery and there is still a lot to learn and he hoped the mural would help inspire people to learn more about marine life.
“This mural is going to put it on the tip of everyone’s tongue.”
The mother whale that stranded at Fort Macon was lactating, which according to Mr. Rittmaster, means she had a calf. The calf did not strand, though it is not known if it survived.
“In memorial of the whale, Constance will paint the mother and calf on the wall almost to scale,” Ms. Moore Crawford said.
The whale mural was added to other paintings in Bonehenge, all of which depict dolphins or whales that have lived or stranded off the North Carolina coast.
She has created other marine murals, including a giant squid and octopus, and branched out of the marine field and painted an elephant.
On Wednesday, Ms. Sartor had completed a large portion of the mural.
“Constance is trying to get a feeling of underwater and has rays of sunlight shining through the water,” Ms. Moore Crawford explained as Ms. Sartor worked on the mural.
To make the mural as accurate as possible, Ms. Sartor studied scientific drawings and paintings, and Danielle Waples, with Duke University Marine Lab on Pivers Island, who has observed Cuvier’s beaked whales in the wild, examined the painting for accuracy, including the eye placement and the size of the bulb on the whale’s head.
In addition to the mural in Bonehenge, Ms. Sartor’s work can be found in other hubs of marine science and education, such as Guam Marine Laboratory, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Fla., New College in Florida and Yellowstone National Park.
As well as painting the mural at Bonehenge Whale Center, while spending time in the county, Ms. Sartor also discussed her mural project and her adventures as an artist and marine biologist during a free presentation Jan. 9 at the N.C. Maritime Museum.
The program also showcased local artist and research assistant Nan Bowles’ dolphin mural at Bonehenge, other works in the Bonehenge collection and the use of art to inspire education and conservation of marine animals.
For more information on Ms. Sartor or to see some of her work, visit fineartamerica.com/profiles/constance-sartor.
For more information on the Bonehenge Whale Center, visit bonehenge.org.