Chance to See Another Whale in Vancouver (July 17)

Photo: Bill Keay/PNG

Back in May, a 10-meter-long grey whale swam right into downtown Vancouver, following the curves of False Creek into the heart of the city.  Tourists and locals alike lined up to take photos of the massive animal, whose appearance made headlines in Vancouver and around the world.

But if you missed that whale sighting, don’t worry.  There’s another coming up, and this one even has a time and date.   Just one hitch: This particular whale’s been dead for 23 years.

On July 17, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia will offer the public a sneak peak of a brand new exhibit showcasing the 25-metre-long skeleton of a blue whale.  Though the new museum doesn’t officially open until the fall, special whale viewing days have been scheduled for July 17 and August 21.

Photo: Beaty Biodiversity Centre at UBC

The blue whale is the biggest animal ever to have lived on earth – bigger than any known dinosaur.  This particular whale measures slightly longer than two city buses.  Its tongue was estimated to weigh more than an elephant and its heart was as big as a small car, with arteries massive enough for a child to crawl through.  The skeleton, painstakingly reassembled over the course of several years, is hung from the ceiling of a two-story glass gallery, with the whale’s jaws wide open in a dramatic feeding pose.

The museum is part of the new $50 million Beaty Biodiversity Centre at UBC, a space that brings together the world’s leading researchers to address biodiversity issues. Once opened in September, the museum will feature more that two million separate specimens, including its centrepiece, the gargantuan blue whale.

Photo: Metro News

The whale’s backstory is almost as interesting as the exhibit itself.  It was killed  in 1987 after colliding with a boat and washed up on the isolated northwestern coast of Prince Edward Island.  At the time, specialists buried the whale on the beach in order to preserve its skeleton for future study.  The whale was exhumed specifically for the exhibit, and it had to undergo an extensive cleaning process to prepare the bones – which were saturated with rancid whale oil – for display.

The new blue whale exhibit is one of only two in all of Canada (The other one is at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa).  Blue whales originally numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but centuries of whaling have reduced that population to around 4,500 worldwide.

Remy Scalza

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