|AFTER RESTORATION (Completed Nov 2010)
Some natural history museums have iconic dinosaur skeletons. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has a skeleton of the largest animal to ever exist on Earth – the Blue Whale.
As one of only five complete Blue Whale skeletons in the United States, the Museum’s iconic 73-foot long phenomenal specimen is more than just a noted Santa Barbara landmark, it also represents a rare opportunity for children and adults to gain first-hand exposure to, as well as an appreciation of, the world’s largest animal.
After a few decades of being on display and exposed to the elements, the skeleton had deteriorated and required some much needed "R&R" (repair and restoration). On March 12, 2010, the Blue Whale skeleton was dismantled for a "migration" north to exhibit design company Academy Studios in Novato, CA, where it underwent a thorough restoration. Only the skull remained as it had deteriorated beyond repair. The Museum replaced the "old" skull with a harvested "new" skull from the first 2007 Blue Whale stranding.
After nearly nine months of meticulous restoration by Academy Studios in Novato, California, and preparation of a new skull and mandibles by staff from the Museum’s Vertebrate Zoology Department, the Museum’s Blue Whale skeleton returned on Monday, November 10, 2010. Articulation and installation of the skeleton was completed on Friday, November 19, 2010, and it is the most anatomically correct Blue Whale skeleton display in the world.
The restored skeleton, which weighs nearly 7,700 pounds, is 98% real bones and is a composite of four specimens. The skull and mandibles and one of the ear bones are from two different Blue Whales that stranded in Ventura, California in September 2007; the last five tail vertebrae are cast replicas made from tail bones of a Blue Whale borrowed from the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, and the majority of the skeleton is from a Blue Whale that stranded on south Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1980.
The newly restored skeleton has been positioned as if the whale is beginning a deep dive into the water. Soon, visitors will once again enjoy walking under the skeleton and into the rib cage to experience the sheer size of these gentle giants.
The Museum's Blue Whale skeleton is proudly named "Chad" thanks to the leadership gift of the Dreier Family. The skeleton is truly a generational icon, so Museum Trustee Doug Dreier and his family named it “Chad,” which is the middle name of the men in the Dreier Family for three generations.
Museum's Blue Whale skeleton in 2007.
The History of the Musuem's Blue Whale Skeleton
The Museum’s Blue Whale skeleton is of a young male that washed ashore near Vandenberg Air Force Base in August 1980. The process of removing the bones from the beach and bringing them back to the Museum for preparation took over six weeks. Upon arrival, Dr. Charles Woodhouse then Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, along with hundreds of volunteers, worked for nearly three years to clean the bones and assemble the skeleton to make it the iconic image of the Museum that it is today.
Blue Whales are considered to be the largest animal in the history of planet. From July to October the gentle giants can be found in the Santa Barbara Channel, with nearly 2,000 Blue Whales traveling offshore on their solo journeys for food. Despite their massive size, the whales feed on tiny shrimp-like crustaceans called krill, consuming as many as 40 million krill per day.
Our Blue Whale holds a special place in the Museum’s heart. For years the skeleton has been a part of every schoolchild’s visit to the Museum and the location where they began their journey of discovery of the natural world. Children and adults alike were invited to get up close and touch the skeleton until recently, when we determined that the deteriorating skeleton could be hazardous and was a potential danger to our visitors.
The Museum’s Blue Whale skeleton has become our most identifiable feature, and along with Stearns Wharf’s dolphin fountain and the Mission, it is one of the three most photographed images in the Santa Barbara community. The skeleton has also appeared in a BBC natural history production hosted by the noted television presenter and naturalist Sir David Attenborough.