Three giants of the seas at the museum

Trois géants des mers au musée

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
Pectoral fin of a humpback whale juvenile about nine metres


The Group for research and education on marine mammals, Tadoussac was given a challenge : to collect, clean, assemble and expose the skeletons of three large whales found washed up on the shores of the St. Lawrence river. An unprecedented project in Quebec, which is on track to become a reality.

In a hangar that is shopping located near Tadoussac, on the North Shore, dozens of bone of whale, from the smallest to the largest, are deposited on different work tables built for the occasion. The eye is a neophyte easily recognizes the vertebral columns of these giants of the seas, while the eye seasoned turns first to the impressive jaw of a right whale, which stands in the middle of the puzzle out of the ordinary.

“This right whale was well-known. In fact, it was a show for the researchers who study the species, ” says Patrice Corbeil, director of education and vice-president of the Group for research and education on marine mammals (GREMM). It is, in fact, ” Piper “, an adult female was found adrift in the sector Drilled in the summer of 2015, before the slaughter of whales in the summer of 2017.

Trois géants des mers au musée

Photo: Alexander Shields
The imposing skull of the right whale, Piper. Each portion of his lower jaw weighs more than 600 pounds.

The path that has led her skeleton from 5000 pounds up to the assembly workshop has been arduous, remembers Mr. Corbeil, who is coordinating the project. “It was a challenge to tow it with a boat, since it weighed 34 tons and was a little over 13 meters. Then, he took it out of the water with a device that is used to lift the fishing boats, and then putting it on a trailer and transport it to a landfill site. This is where took place the necropsy of the animal, and that we have recovered the skeleton. “

Once the skeleton is recovered, the team GREMM did carry up to Tadoussac, where he had to be exposed to the elements, cleaned and degreased. It must be said that whales accumulate fat in their bone structure. In order to assemble the bones, but also expose the skeleton of the animal, therefore, it is imperative the degrease, without which it suintera fat for several years. “We’re talking about a series of steps, which can take several years. It is necessary to be patient, ” says Patrice Corbeil.

Trois géants des mers au musée

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
The 800 baleen of the right whale, Piper will be placed on the skeleton which will be exposed to Tadoussac.

In fact, the skeleton of the fin whale for 16 meters, which is located in the same workshop as the right whale was collected in 2008, in the wake of the red tide of toxic algae that had struck the St. Lawrence during the summer.

The third whale skeleton, which will be assembled over the next few weeks, however, is more recent. It is that of a young female humpback whale a little more than two years, measuring 9 metres and found stranded in 2017 in the area of Godbout, on the North Shore. The animal, which could hardly his long migration that began in the Caribbean, is believed to have died of hunger.

Technical challenges

The team GREMM account exposing its skeleton to the Centre d’interprétation des mammifères marins (CIMM) in position to jump, a trait characteristic of the humpback whale, a species known for its dramatic leaps out of the water. “It is a challenge, especially as we have not found other examples of this elsewhere in the world. But we will find the solutions as “, says Patrice Corbeil.

“Each of the three whales presents technical challenges,” adds Patrick Bérubé, who works on the project of assembling of skeletons. “There is no manual with instructions on ways to assemble these animals. Thus, there is a pane of scientific research, but also a very technical, since we want to place the skeletons in their giving, the movement as natural as possible. We want visitors to be able to imagine these animals in their natural habitat. It is therefore necessary that the support structure is the most subtle as possible, despite the weight of the bones. “

Trois géants des mers au musée

Photo: GREMM
The skeleton of this young humpback whale of nine metres will be exposed in position to jump, a trait characteristic of the species.

In addition to the humpback whale in jump position, the right whale, will also be suspended within the ICMM, located on the edge of the Saguenay fjord, in the heart of the village of Tadoussac. The team GREMM wants to show power, with all its baleen plates, recovered at necropsy. A complex project, since it will be placed in the order of approximately 800 baleen Piper, some of which reach 2 meters in length. These baleen he used to filter, on the surface, the tiny crustaceans on which it fed.

As for the fin, it too should be suspended, but with the head close enough to the ground that visitors can enter into his rib cage. Its assembly could be completed next summer, ” involving the public “, according to Mr. Corbeil.

Unique Collection

Even if the project will still require several months of work, the GREMM is estimated that the expansion work of the ICMM, essential to add the three skeletons, could be held as early as this spring. The financing is progressing well, simply underlines its vice-president, which comes, however, to launch a campaign to sociofinancement.

“With this project, we have a unique collection of whales of the St. Lawrence,” says Patrice Corbeil. The ICMM already has skeletons of several species observed in the St. Lawrence river. In addition to belugas, one can observe a female minke whale and her fetus, a white-sided dolphin, long-finned pilot whales, a sperm whale dwarf and a massive skeleton of a sperm whale, from the bones of the head weigh alone more than a ton.

The team has also recovered and exhibited the skeleton of a Sowerby’s beaked whale beached at the island of the Apples, near Trois-Pistoles. This species is relatively unknown live normally off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

“Each of her animals has its own story, even if they are not all as well known as Piper. Our goal is to make them known to visitors, but also sensitize visitors to the beauty, the fragility and the importance of these animals. It also wants to raise public awareness of the richness of the St. Lawrence, which is the same river at Tadoussac, under the Champlain bridge. All of this is connected. “

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