Whales Today

Opening February 18, 2019

The Whaling Museum tells the story of human interaction with whales in the world’s oceans. The narrative is diverse and rich, including not just the history of whaling, but also the cultural impact of this connection in the arts, in cultural exchange, and on exploration, mythology, and literature.

How can we address mankind’s interactions with whales over time without better understanding what whales are and how they live?


cultures of whaling

Cape Aggen, Siberia Native, ca. 1887

The Whales Today exhibition will provide an introduction to and an examination of the status of whales in today’s oceans and mankind’s historic and current interactions with these magnificent mammals. From this point of view, and only after this introduction, will the visitor explore the broader history of human cultural and commercial connections with whales and whaling.

Visitors will explore whale biology, behavior, and habitat, particularly as these themes relate to the whale skeletons on display. These exhibits will inform visitors about what whales are, where they live, their diversity in speed, size, and communication patterns, their evolution, and migration.

Particularly, the Museum will educate visitors on how these traits make them vulnerable to challenges currently facing whales: ship strikes, entanglements, and noise pollution. Visitors will learn about conservation efforts and eco-tourism as a way to create positive change. This will include information on current news and legislation, and offer real ways people can have an impact – from recycling to writing elected officials.

Later in the exhibition, the current vulnerabilities of whales will be explored from the whaling perspective as many of them are similar or the same today as they were back then. Likewise, the history of marine mammal research will connect the past with the present as the exhibits will discuss how we know what we know about whales, from historic baseline bioacoustics recordings informing policy change in noise pollution mitigation, to 19th century whaler’s logbooks informing 21st century marine mammal population studies, to 20th and 21st century whale tagging and data processing.

Spoiler Alert! Whales Today will feature a life-sized model of a blue whale’s heart!

A blue whale’s heart is the size of a Volkswagon Beetle (shown in the picture below) and has to pump 2,500 gallons, or 10 tons, of blood through a 100-foot-long mammal, compared with 1.5 gallons that run through the average human. The blue whale’s aorta is large enough for an adult person to crawl through. As part of the new Whales Today biology and conservation exhibition the model will be a fantastic tool to educate audiences on comparative anatomy between the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth and the rest of the animal kingdom.

blue whale heart model


Banner Caption: (detail) Right Whale, Balaena Glacialis by Richard Ellis

Whales Today is supported by the David P. Wheatland Charitable Trust, Sidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Foundation, and the William M. Wood Foundation, in partnership with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Newport.

Warfare Center US Navy Stewards of the Sea