The blue whale

The skeleton of a blue whale hangs in atrium of the Core Science Facility as an educational and cultural artifact. It was recovered from the west coast of Newfoundland in 2014 after washing ashore in Bonne Bay. Coincidentally, Memorial University maintains the Bonne Bay Marine Station.

Mark and Sandra Dobbin, and Craig and Lisa Dobbin, donated core funding to acquire and prepare the whale skeleton for display in honour of their mother, the late Eleanor (Penney) Dobbin.

The height of the whale atrium is 30 m (98’), and was specially designed to display and house the whale, which measures 25 m (82’). The whale is posed as if it swimming - a nod to Memorial’s motto Provehito in Altum, which means “launch forth into the deep”, and symbolizes the spirit of discovery that is central to a university.

Facts about the blue whale:

  • The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) cleaned the skeleton and prepared it for display. This involved removing the skin, blubber, internal organs and muscles, taking it apart bone-by-bone and placing the skeleton in containers filled with soil and compost. The compost helps remove remaining flesh from the bones. Then the skeleton was degreased, which can take two to three years.

  • At 5.5 m (18’) long, the whale skull was so large it had to be brought into the Core Science Facility during construction to fit.

  • There are 356 bones in a blue whale skeleton. 

  • There are very few whole blue whales available for study. Memorial worked with ROM to obtain as much information as possible from the whale, including genetic samples to reconstruct their entire genome. Another project sought to analyze the ear wax to learn more about the chemistry of the marine environment.

  • Blue whales are the largest animals that have ever lived – even bigger than the largest known dinosaur

  • The average tongue on a blue whale weighs as much as an entire elephant.

  • The heart weighs as much as a small car.

  • Females are larger than males.

  • Their diet consists mainly of krill and they can consume as much as four tonnes a day.

Installing the blue whale

The installation in the Core Science Facility took approximately two weeks of careful and precise work by Research Casting Inc. The time-lapse video below shows the installation process.