Now that all of Tallulah’s parts have been safely moved into the Water Gallery, it’s time to start setting her up! The first stages have gone relatively smoothly, just a few little technical difficulties with some of the equipment, but nothing that caused major disruptions. They started at the front of her body by putting her cranium on custom-designed posts (which will eventually be disguised by a series of other specimens on display and information panels), and then moved to her spine and rib cage, which are being suspended from the ceiling. Because Tallulah was found washed up on a beach, it wasn’t possible to recover all of her bones, although they sure came close! Roughly 90 – 95% of her full skeleton was recovered which is a really high percentage for display, especially for an animal this size! To fill in the blanks where certain bones weren’t found, casts are made so that she will appear as a complete skeleton. She is missing a few ribs; one full and two half ribs to be exact. See if you can guess which ones are casts when you visit the Museum after our grand opening in May!
You might also notice that her skull is in two pieces. This is because she died at such a young age that the bones hadn’t had the chance to fuse together like they eventually do in more mature whales. This was actually a blessing in disguise for the crew who is installing her, because it made moving the pieces in and them mounting them about half as difficult as it could have been! This, however, is the only thing about Tallulah that can be considered small. Did you know that, even as a young 4-6 year old whale, if she had given birth to a calf it would have been the size of a mini-van?! That’s no ordinary-sized pelvis that can handle a feat like that! Needless to say, as the crew works its way through Tallulah’s skeleton towards her tail, it is very exciting to see it all come together. Since this is the first time she will be fully assembled in one room, I’m just beginning to understand how truly massive this creature is, and I’m certain Tallulah the blue whale will be a memorable part of the museum experience for future visitors!