Museum to display skeleton from Codroy

Brodie Thomas
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Whale of an exhibit

Thirty-five years after it washed up on the beach in Codroy, the skeleton of a blue whale is about to become the centerpiece of a display at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

Jonathan Ferrabee, the designer of the water gallery at the museum, said the whale will be the centerpiece of that section of the museum.

Martin Lipman, Canadian Museum of Nature

Thirty-five years after it washed up on the beach in Codroy, the skeleton of a blue whale is about to become the centerpiece of a display at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

Jonathan Ferrabee, the designer of the water gallery at the museum, said the whale will be the centerpiece of that section of the museum.

"I'd like to say we're not so much putting a whale in an exhibit - we're putting an exhibit around a whale," he said.

The female blue whale washed up on a beach near Codroy in 1975. Because their bodies rarely come ashore after death, scientists were sent to remove and recover the bones from the carcass.

The skeleton was shipped to Ottawa by rail and then buried until 1983 to help the flesh decompose.

The bones were then put into storage until three years ago, when museum officials began treating the bones to prepare them for display.

Mr. Ferrabee said even after 30 years, the bones were still weeping oil. To deal with that moisture, the bones were placed in enzyme baths. Scientists constructed large tubs and heated the enzyme fluid to 40 degrees. The natural enzymes helped break down the organic matter without the use of harmful chemicals.

The skeleton will be 18 metres (59 feet) long when assembled. The largest bone is the lower jawbone, which is five metres (18 feet) long. The bones came form an adolescent female that was approximately six years old when it was killed.

"This is the biggest animal that has ever lived on the planet - bigger than any dinosaur. There's a lot of excitement that comes with an animal of that size," said Mr. Ferrabee.

He said the whale likely died from a boat strike, because a few of its vertebrae are missing. Those bones have been recreated for the display.

Once completed, the skeleton will be the first of its kind on display in Canada. A second blue whale skeleton is set to go on display in British Columbia later this year.

The Codroy Valley whale display will be open to the public on May 22. Mr. Ferrabee said he hopes everyone from the area will get a chance to see the skeleton.

reporter@gulfnews.ca

Organizations: Canadian Museum of Nature

Geographic location: Codroy Valley, Ottawa, Canada British Columbia

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