"Whale Watching on the LIE" | The Sag Harbor Express | By Douglas Freiden
The Long Island Expressway is infamous for its carbon monoxide, bumper-to-bumper traffic and the unofficial and unflattering title it has held since the 1960s as the “world’s longest parking lot.”
Now, the LIE has a new and more positive claim to fame. It is the repository of a big whalebone that briefly passed through the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum en route to the Interstate.
Why, one might ask, would a rib bone of a whale — roughly five-feet long with a curvature of about two to three feet — wind up, behind glass and on public display, between exits 51 and 52 in Dix Hills?
Ah, that’s a question for Richard Doctorow, the curator of the Whaling Museum who was recently promoted after three years as collections manager: “If there is such a thing as whale kismet, this is it,” he said.
Environmental Conservation Police Lieutenant Sean Reilly poses with whalebones that his agency donated to the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum, which loaned them to the Long Island Welcome Center near Exit 51 off the LIE. Photo courtesy NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
As Mr. Doctorow tells the story, he was contacted in late August, out of the blue, by New York State Environmental Conservation Police Officer Kevin Holzle who was in possession of the hefty rib bone and a smaller companion bone that his agency wanted to contribute to the museum.
“We’re of course always grateful for donations, so we accepted,” Mr. Doctorow said.
Yes, but where did the bones originate? As Officer Holzle picks up the saga, it was during a routine boarding of a surf-clam dredge commercial fishing vessel about two years ago at a Nassau County fishing port that the bones were discovered on the deck near the stern. No attempt had been made to conceal them, and he believes they had simply been scooped up by the dredge from the bottom of the seabed.
“We came on board, and we saw them, and we said, ‘Hey, what’s up with these things? What the heck are they?’” Mr. Holzle recalls. “I finally said, ‘Wow, these are whalebones!’ Legally, they cannot possess them, so we took them.”