By Matthew Durkee

From the pages of the Del Norte Triplicate, February 2008:

The carcass of a 40-foot-long male sperm whale turned into a prime tourist attraction Friday after it washed up on South Beach.

Cars lined the side of U.S. Highway 101 south of Crescent City as hundreds of people were drawn to the area despite the stench — evidence the giant mammal had been dead for a week before its appearance at dawn, experts said.

“It appears to be a juvenile animal; it is possible that it didn’t forage enough,” said Lanni Hall, director of Northcoast Marine Mammal Center.

“It’s not all that common. This is the first sperm whale I’ve heard of” washing up in the area, Hall said.

Local owners say “Bring it on” to corporate coffee

There’s no shortage of drive-through coffee shops in Crescent City.

On U.S. Highway 101 alone, a statement as simple as “Let’s get some coffee” can lead to “Let’s stop there … or there … or there.”

The decision on where to get a java fix will become even harder when Starbucks Coffee Company opens a coffeehouse and drive-through at 450 Highway 101 North. But the city’s already established coffee drive-throughs say they are prepared for the coffee powerhouse.

“Crescent City likes to have new things, but it should have been a restaurant — any source of food rather than a coffee shop when we already have so many, said Better Bean Espresso owner Heidi Cross.

Adrienne Anthony, owner of Java Hut, said her business has what it takes to compete.

“I think we have a much larger menu and lower prices than Starbucks. People looking for the status of the name will go there.”

Cross agrees that neither she nor others will be run out of business.

“We have a great location; we’ve been here almost six years. For the first couple weeks, people will go there.”

After 42 years, crab race comes to a close

The crab won’t get a chance to stretch their legs this year.

What would have been the 43rd annual World Championship Crab Races and Festival will not happen this weekend due to falling attendance and revenue.

The all-day family event was once attended by thousands of people, but numbers have dropped to 500, leaving the sponsor feeling pinched.

The festivities were organized by the Crescent City / Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce for the past several years.

The crab races cost the chamber about $5,000 every year, and low turnout prompted the board of directors to cancel this year’s festival.

“We looked at what happened last year. We’re always trying to bring exciting events to Del Norte, but it has to make fiscal sense,” said Janet Wortman, co-chair of the chamber’s events committee.

In the races, children would try to coax their crabs down a ramp by pounding their fists at the top. Last year’s crab feed at the fairgrounds involved 500 pounds of cooked Dungeness crab. There was also karaoke, a crab recipe contest, raffles, bounce houses for kids and local vendors selling their goods.

The event was created more than 40 years ago to help the crab fishing industry.

Volunteers cut with precision to save massive skeleton

It’s not every day that large portions of a sperm whale ride off into the sunset in a dump truck.

Volunteers up to their sleeves in whale tissue had hoped to remove all of the 14-ton mammal’s flesh, blubber and bones from South Beach on Tuesday, but they ran out of daylight.

Today the whale’s head, a shoulder blade and pectoral fin will be taken off the beach. The rib cage, which was moved out of the tide zone by a front loader, will also be removed.

After the carcass washed ashore, the reality of the massive decomposing animal set it, bringing together a crew of volunteers.

Local leaders opted to save the whale’s skeleton and keep it on display somewhere in Del Norte County, most likely the cultural center.

Volunteers are removing a large amount of the whale’s tissue and blubber to be composted, and the bones will be buried in an undisclosed location to allow the remaining tissue to decompose in the ground. The bones will be unearthed one or two years from now and reassembled into the skeletal shape.

Family Resource Center officially opens doors

The dedication of the Del Norte Family Resource Center brought out tears of joy Thursday as local officials celebrated a long-fought-for achievement.

“This is proof positive that if you build it they will come,” said Jan Moorehouse, the FIRST 5 Del Norte Children and Families Commission chairperson.

Phil Freneau, a former commissioner, said the FRC took “years and years” to build.

“Seeing the reality is great,” he said, gazing around the playroom as toddlers ran outside to take in the sunlight.

The center serves children and families of all ages, providing a range of services from group playtime, parenting classes, Happy Toes dance class, health classes and School Readiness, which gets children ready for the educational system.

The FIRST 5 California Children and Families Commission focuses on the development of children up to 5 years old. Each county has their own commission.

Whale’s teeth show up at school

It was a simple case of show-and-tell.

A parent brought whale teeth to Mountain Elementary School in Gasquet, and Principal Jeff Slayton called the cops.

Being in possession of the teeth is a federal offense.

“All marine mammals are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act,” said Ed Roberts, associate marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. “The law prohibits taking parts from live and dead animals.”

The woman has two teeth taken from the upper jaw of the 14-ton make sperm whale that washed ashore on South Beach last Friday.

“She admitted to being in possession of the teeth,” said Commander Bill Steven of the Sheriff’s Office. “She was told to return the teeth to (Northcoast) Marine Mammal Center.”

Though it is a federal offense — punishable by hefty fines and possible jail time — officials decided to forgo criminal proceedings and simply recover the teeth.

“It was better to get the teeth than threaten them with charges,” said Lanni Hall, Northcoast Marine Mammal Center director. “It was kind of an exchange.”

Up to three teeth taken from the upper jaw are still missing. They can be dropped at the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center — no questions asked, Hall said.

Reach Matthew Durkee at .