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Media Release | Mar. 3, 2008

Blue Whale Skeleton Finds Permanent Home at UBC: Canadian First

The skeleton of a blue whale that washed up on Prince Edward Island 20 years ago will have a permanent home at The University of British Columbia’s new Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

The Museum, scheduled to open in late 2009, will be the first attraction in Canada to exhibit the skeleton of the largest animal ever to have lived -- bigger than any dinosaur. The UBC exhibit will be one of only five in North America.

Note to editors: Video footage of the 1987 beaching and December 2007 preliminary dig are available by contacting Brian Lin. For more information on blue whales and biodiversity, www.beatymuseum.ubc.ca.

At 25 metres long, the blue whale skeleton will be showcased in a glass atrium facing Main Mall, at the heart of the university. The exhibit will be the centrepiece of an educational outreach program and collection of more than two million specimens of mammals, fish, shells, fossils, insects, birds and plants.

“Visitors will be awed by the blue whale's size,” says Wayne Maddison, Museum Director and UBC Professor of Botany and Zoology. “More importantly, the whale will help us tell the story of biodiversity to the public – how the earth’s species are interconnected ecologically and genetically.”

Blue whales inhabit both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. UBC’s specimen beached and died near the town of Tignish, PEI. The Canadian Museum of Nature arranged for its remains to be buried on provincially owned land near Nail Pond, 11 miles away. The Canadian Museum of Nature and the Government of PEI are supporting UBC’s efforts to exhume and display the national treasure.

“Through the collaboration of two provinces and world-class museums, Canadians from coast to coast will have an opportunity to fully appreciate this magnificent animal,” says Andrew Trites, a researcher at the UBC Biodiversity Research Centre and Director of UBC’s Marine Mammal Research Unit. Trites is leading the exhumation and preparation of the skeleton.

Trites conducted a preliminary dig last December with help of volunteers from the University of PEI. His team, including master skeleton articulator Michael deRoos, will exhume the skeleton this May and transport it across Canada to UBC, where it will be prepared for display. The Museum plans to launch a naming competition this spring.

The Museum will be the first public institution in Canada to focus exclusively on biodiversity research and education. Skeletons of a killer whale, a minke whale, and a Steller sea lion are currently on display at UBC’s Aquatic Ecosystem Research Laboratory, next door to the Museum site. The skeletons were salvaged by Trites and deRoos, and articulated by deRoos.

Background: Blue Whale Finds Home at UBC

About the Blue Whale

  • The blue whale is the biggest animal ever to have lived on earth – bigger than any dinosaur.
  • It is longer than two 40-foot long school buses parked one behind the other.
  • A blue whale’s heart is the size of a car, and the arteries connected to the heart are large enough for a human baby to crawl through.
  • The blue whale is also the loudest animal. At 190 decibels, a blue whale’s call is louder than a jet (140 decibels), and much louder than a person can shout (70 decibels). A sound clip is available on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration web site.
  • Blue whales inhabit every ocean on the planet, and travel from frigid polar waters, where they feed, to warm tropical waters, where they give birth to their calves. In spite of their great size and range, we know very little about these gentle giants.
  • The blue whale is listed as an endangered species under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. It is also on the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) Red List of endangered species. There are estimated to be 4,500 blue whales left in the world, down from 350,000 before whaling activities began.

About Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variety of life. It is the range of genetic, species and ecosystem diversity in an environment. Estimates of the total number of species range from 3 to 100 million. Only 1.9 million species are known to science, and vast numbers have yet to be documented. Expeditions to remote tropical areas in New Guinea, Africa, Asia and South America continue to find previously unknown species, including new species of birds, fruit bats, butterflies, and frogs. Closer to home, many species new to science remain to be found in Canada, and recent work has documented new fishes, fungi, and insects.

About UBC’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum

The Beaty Museum, scheduled to open in late 2009, will be unique in making its scientific collections available for public viewing through a combination of museum exhibits, hands-on discovery labs, educators' resources, and public presentations. The Museum will serve as an invaluable link between the world-renowned scientists at the Biodiversity Research Centre and the public.  It will also serve as the outreach arm of the Research Centre. For more information visit www.beatymuseum.ubc.ca.

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Contact

Brian Lin
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.2234
Cell: 604.818.5685
E-mail: brian.lin@ubc.ca

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Last reviewed 17-Mar-2010

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