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Blue Whale Will Be Dismantled
updated: Mar 02, 2010, 4:17 PM

Source: Museum of Natural History

WHAT: Depending on weather, the Blue Whale skeleton at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is scheduled to be dismantled for a "migration" north to Academy Studios in Novato, CA where it will undergo a thorough restoration. The only part of the skeleton that will be left is the skull, as the plan is to replace the current skull with a harvested "new" skull from the first 2007 Blue Whale stranding. The original Blue Whale skeleton was harvested from a stranding about 0.5 miles south of Honda Point, Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1980.

FYI: The Museum is the hub of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network for Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, and San Luis Obispo County, and is responsible for conducting necropsies to help identify the cause of death. Over the past 35 years, the Museum has responded to more than 500 stranded cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Since 1980, the Museum has responded to ten Blue Whale strandings; four were part of the Unusual Mortality Event in 2007.

In addition to repairing the bones, the Museum will also take the opportunity to display the skeleton in a more anatomically correct position. Since the skeleton was first put on display in 1983, Museum scientists know more about Blue Whales, and learned that several parts of the whale skeleton need to be positioned differently; particularly the lower jaws of the whale, the position of the front limb bones, and the orientation of the ribs.

The restoration will be performed by Academy Studios, (the firm that designed the Blue Whale skeleton display at California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco). The restoration involves working with each individual bone to remove old paint, repair cracks, and rebuild missing or broken bones. Afterwards, each bone will undergo a hardening and sealing process, and then painted with marine paint. When the "new" skull bones are cleaned, they will be transported to Academy Studios to be hardened, sealed and painted. It is expected that all the bones will return in September 2010, which will launch the next phase of the project.

In Phase Two, the skeleton will be displayed with new lighting, exhibit signage, and landscaping. Since the bones will be reoriented, new posts and a new foundation will also be installed. The estimated cost for the first two phases of the project is $500,000; and to-date $350,000 has been raised with $100,000 donated by the Dreier Family. To reach the goal, the Museum will need the community's support. For more information on the project go to http://www.sbnature.org/support/480.html.

WHERE: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.

WHEN: The dismantling process is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, March 9. The bones could be on the road to Novato as early as Saturday, March 13. A daily/hourly schedule is not available at this time. If the timeline changes due to rain, media will be updated asap.

WHY: The 72-foot long Blue Whale skeleton is not only an icon of the Museum, but also for the Tri-County area. It is a rare specimen that gives all visitors first-hand, up-close exposure to the world's largest animal; and it has likely greeted more than two million people since being on display. The Museum's skeleton is one of only five complete Blue Whale skeletons on exhibit in the United States, and it is the most complete with 90 percent of the bones being real Blue Whale bones. Yet this treasured whale is deteriorating and in critical need of repair. The Museum has set the much-needed restoration of the skeleton as a top priority for 2010.


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