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REF NO.: 129

SUBJECT: Memorial and Royal Ontario Museum form partnership to recover blue whale skeleton

DATE: May 29

The skeleton of a 75-foot blue whale will find a home at Memorial University. The university and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) have concluded an agreement to retrieve and treat one of two whales that perished in sea ice on the province’s west coast.
The ROM and Memorial University will share scientific information provided by the carcass to further knowledge of this endangered species.
Dr. Mark Abrahams, dean of Science at Memorial, said the agreement will leverage the ROM’s leadership and expertise in recovering and treating whales, while providing scientific opportunities for faculty and students to study the world’s largest mammal.
“Memorial does not have the expertise to recover a blue whale or to treat it,” said Dr. Abrahams. “In fact, very few agencies or companies have the experience and expertise that the ROM team, led by Dr. Mark Engstrom and its partner Research Casting International, have in recovering this large mammal and preparing it for public display.”
The ROM recently began the process to recover one of the two whales and has agreed to now begin recovery of the second whale.
Dr. Mark Engstrom, deputy director, Collections & Research at the ROM, said the museum's team will begin work on the second whale this week and expect the initial stages of the recovery to be completed in about five days. 
“This is an important opportunity to further our understanding of these magnificent animals and help Canadians benefit in a meaningful way from this invaluable contribution to Canadian science,” said Dr. Engstrom.
The cost of salvaging the whale from the beach in Rocky Harbour and transporting it to Ontario will be covered by Memorial University through external sources. Costs include treatment of the bones – cleaning, oil removal, bone strengthening and reassembly – as well as additional costs to return the skeleton to the province and to display it.
Dr. Abrahams said it could take as long as five years for the skeleton to be ready for display. This leaves the university time to engage and consult the community about how and where the blue whale could be displayed.
Dr. Abrahams said there are many possibilities for Memorial students to take advantage of this special opportunity. “We can possibly send students to be involved in the various stages of preparing the skeleton. We can take samples from the whale now for soft tissue analysis. The skeleton will remain a research resource for many generations.”
Dr. Engstrom will be sharing his experiences and the latest news on the whale recovery at a special event at the ROM on Tuesday, June 10. Details are available at www.rom.on.ca.   

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For more information, please contact David Sorensen, acting associate director (communications), Memorial University, (709) 864-2143, cell (709) 685-7134, sorensen@mun.ca; or Marnie Peters, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), at marniep@rom.on.ca or 416-562-1635.

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