New blue whale exhibit opens at the ROM

Incredible display was three years in the making, after museum staff recovered a dead whale washed ashore in Newfoundland in 2014
blue whale The beautiful Blue goes on display for the first time Saturday, March 11 at the Royal Ontario Museum. (ROM)

When you hear the word "museum", there's a pretty good chance that one of the next things that your brain thinks is "dinosaurs". That's because of all of the fascinating things that a museum has to offer, few items are as awesome as the bones of these prehistoric reptiles. For one, they're ancient—animals from long, long ago. And two, they were just so huge. It's remarkable to think that animals could have ever reached such titanic sizes.

But it's also remarkable to know that today there exists an animal that is larger and heavier than even the greatest dinosaurs ever were. The blue whale!

A rare opportunity

blue whale heart
A blue whale's heart alone is far larger than a human. (ROM)

Blues may still be alive, but seeing one is rare. These animals are so massive that you won't find one in any aquarium, and their ocean habitat isn't exactly just around the corner, if you know what we mean. That's why a brand new exhibit called Out Of The Depths: The Blue Whale Story at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto has so many people (especially us) very excited. With a skull as long as a school bus and a heart the size of a small car, the blue whale is an animal that dwarfs all other life on Earth.

And now people have a chance to witness that first hand. It's pretty spectacular.

Preserving a life

cleaning bones blue whale
Blue's bones are cleaned before being assembled. (Sally McIntyre)

The story of how this whale skeleton (named Blue, which isn't confusing at all) arrived at the ROM has a sad beginning. In March 2014, nine blue whales got trapped in heavy sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was an unusual event and, unfortunately, all of these whales died. But eventually in April, the bodies of two of these whales washed ashore in Newfoundland. Researchers at the ROM knew that this was a rare opportunity to preserve a complete blue whale skeleton.

The job wasn't an easy one. Removing the skeleton alone took six whole days. But the end result is one of the most exciting animal exhibits ever at the ROM. The beautiful Blue in all of her glory!

A chance to appreciate an endangered animal

blue whale
Blue is ready for visitors! (ROM)

When Blue was alive, she was 24 metres (80 feet) long, and weighed about 90 tonnes (200,000 pounds). She was actually a little on the small side for a blue whale (which can grow up 8 metres, or 25 feet, longer). But she was still 1.5 times heavier than the largest sauropod dinosaur ever was.

We talked about how seeing a blue whale is rare. Part of that is because it is an ocean creature. But it is also an endangered one, too. There used to be around 400,000 blue whales in our oceans. But centuries of whaling (or hunting whales), dropped their numbers to around 15,000. Maybe that's the best reason for Out Of The Depths. It is a reminder that even the largest animals ever can be at risk, so we can't take them for granted.

Out Of The Depths: The Blue Whale Story is on display from March 11 to September 4, 2017.

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  1. It is sad that blue whales have become endangered due to whaling (hunting), but it is interesting to learn about how large blue whales can be. It was fun to learn that a whale heart is as big as a human being. It was helpful to learn that blue whales are endangered, as some of us are studying the World Wildlife Fund. Even our teacher learned something new!

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