Sperm Whale - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Sperm Whale

Sperm Whale

Who is This Toothed Whale?

He is a 48-foot (14.6m) male sperm whale, who was approximately 30 years old at the time of his death. This whale was discovered stranded on Nantucket Island south of Great Point Lighthouse on June 7, 2002. Information from the necropsy report suggests that he died on the beach.

Sperm Whale Infographic (pdf)

How He Got Here

The body was towed for nine hours by a tugboat to a shipyard in Fairhaven, MA, across the Acushnet River from the Whaling Museum. The carcass was then loaded on a long flatbed truck and driven to the City of New Bedford’s landfill. Over the next few days, a necropsy and flensing (removal of soft tissue) were performed. After preparation, the bones were brought into the museum for articulation in November of 2003.

Preparation and Display

The whale was “put to rest” in a bed of manure for a few months to clean the soft tissue and leach oil from the bones. The bones were removed from the manure, washed and placed in a trailer for ten months. They were then laid out to whiten or “cure” in the sun. After the bones were dry, the team of Andrew and Jean Konnerth assembled the skeleton in what is now the Turner Gallery. This process was completed in March 2005. The skeletal assembly was done in full view of museum visitors, allowing for interaction between them and the Konnerths.

Interesting Details

During the flensing process there was concern over how the whale had died, whether the widespread joint disease they found was contagious (it was not), and then whether the body should go on display at all. Work stopped while samples went for testing. After test results proved negative, the flensing continued. The true cause of death has not been determined.