The highlight of the upcoming water gallery is undoubtedly Tallulah, the 65 foot blue whale. I went to visit her (well, parts of her!) in the labs this week to see how preparation for moving her into the gallery is coming along. Because she is so big, she is scattered throughout many rooms, with many staff members working to get her ready for the gallery installation that begins next week! Once she is in place in the gallery, her cranium will be mounted on posts, and the rest of her body will be suspended from the ceiling. In one of the labs, staff are in the process of assembling her rib cage and attaching it to her spine, which from top to bottom is 12 feet tall! The bones are attached with metal rods which will keep Tallulah’s shape and secure all the parts in place for display. These rods, which are also welded to the bones for support, all come apart so they can be moved into the gallery and then reassembled, like a big whale puzzle. Moving something so large presents lots of challenges, but staff have been planning since the beginning to try and minimize any issues. One potential problem is the size of Tallulah’s jaws, which can’t be broken down into smaller pieces. As is, they measure the exact same size as the museum’s elevator. In theory this should work out, but we will have to wait until the day of the move to know for sure!
Tallulah came to the museum after she was found washed up on a beach in Newfoundland over 30 years ago, and one of the most common questions asked about the blue whale is “how did she die?” There isn’t a definitive answer to this question, but one theory that staff members subscribe to is that she was struck by a ship. Staff believe this because of the way certain bones are broken, like the top of her vertebrae which appear to have been snapped off, as if they came into contact with something, as opposed to being worn down over time. Although the bones don’t fit together perfectly, it is believed that because she was found on a beach, and because some grains of sand were found pushed into the bones, the beach is responsible for some of the wear and tear. Also, Tallulah was only 4-6 years old when she died, so it’s unlikely she died of old age! This will be the first time Tallulah will be on display since she was found, so stay tuned for details the installation of this massive creature!