Animals Natural Science

Cetecean Needed


London’s Natural History Museum is re-modelling its entrance, moving out the dinosaur and moving in a blue whale.

My initial reaction to this wasn’t great. Seeing Dippy for the first time had such a profound effect on me as a child. It genuinely blew me away, and every time I go back it brings back the same feelings of wonder and awe.

But, I also thought it was a real skeleton. It wasn’t until years later I found out it was a plaster cast (in fact it wasn’t until years later I realised how few real dinosaur bones I had actually seen). The Blue Whale on the other hand is complete. 100% complete. And as the article says, a great story to represent the work the NHM does:

The museum has chosen the whale to lead what it calls its “three great narratives”.

These cover the origins and evolution of life, the diversity of life on Earth today, and the long-term sustainability of humans’ custodianship of the planet.

The cetacean has something to say on all them, particularly the last. Blue whales were hunted to the brink of extinction before a ban on their exploitation was put in place in the 1960s.

Indeed, it was NHM scientists who were instrumental in gathering the data in the earlier decades of the 20th Century that showed commercial practices were driving the animal to oblivion.

“And going forward we want to tell more of these stories about the societally relevant research that we do,” explained Sir Michael.

“So, for example, today our teams help the police with the forensic examination of crime scenes; we do projects that potentially could help feed nine billion people in 2050; and we also look at whether it’s possible to eradicate certain parasitic diseases in Africa.”

The Hall will definitely be a more fitting home for such a majestic specimen. In the hall of mammals you got to see just how truly huge Blue Whales are in comparison to everything else but equally there’s a lot in that space and it’s often crowded. As the first thing you see when you walk in I think would blow both 8-year-old me and 31-year-old me away.