Memorial confirms it will salvage Rocky Harbour’s blue whale

Diane
Diane Crocker
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The Rocky Harbour blue whale, seen in this picture taken on Saturday, is going to Memborial University of Newfoundland.

Memorial University has confirmed it does indeed hope to retrieve the skeleton of the blue whale beached on the shores of Rocky Harbour.

The university has reached a tentative agreement with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to salvage the carcass with the aim of eventually having it on display in Newfoundland and Labrador.

As reported in The Western Star earlier Tuesday, Rocky Harbour Mayor Walter Nicolle met with Gary Kachanoski, Memorial’s president, this past weekend and discussed the issue of the rotting remains of the endangered species. The Royal Ontario Museum has already taken the skeleton of one beached blue whale in the Bonne Bay area and had hoped to retrieve the one in Rocky Harbour too, but was concerned about the costs of processing the second whale.

Mark Abrahams, the dean of science at Memorial, is eager for the university to pursue this rare project.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the university,” Abrahams said in an interview late Tuesday afternoon.

He was short on the finer details, including when the work will commence, saying he had only just received confirmation of the university’s interest himself. Given the Town of Rocky Harbour wants the animal removed as soon as possible, Abrahams said the work is likely to start soon.

He said the university won’t face the same costs as the museum did with the first whale.

“For starters, we won’t have to transport it out of the province,” he said.

In a prepared statement also issued Tuesday afternoon, Kachanoski said the museum’s assistance will be required in this project.

“The university doesn’t have the expertise to dismantle and treat the whale carcass, so a partnership with the ROM will allow the appropriate treatment of the animal’s remains and ensure this educational and cultural artifact remains in the province,” read the press release’s comments attributed to Kachanoski.

The release indicated the museum will disarticulate and clean the whale carcass and Memorial will look to the museum’s experts to advise on the next steps.

Properly treating a blue whale so it can be displayed can take as long as three or four years. Abrahams said details about where and when it will be accessible to the public have yet to be determined.

“Having the remains of a blue whale displayed at the university is a great teaching and learning opportunity for our students, staff and visitors,” said Abrahams.

As it did with the first dissected whale, the museum will be interested in taking more tissue samples from the second whale for its own scientific research.

“This is a rare and important opportunity to study an endangered animal and the ROM is pleased to be able to lend our expertise to recovery efforts,” Mark Engstrom, the Royal Ontario Museum’s deputy director of collections and research, stated in the press release.

EARLIER STORY

The blue whale that washed ashore in Rocky Harbour over the Easter weekend is headed to university.

Rocky Harbour Mayor Walter Nicolle said an agreement was reached over the weekend that will see Memorial University of Newfoundland take possession of the whale.

“I had a meeting with the president (of the university) on Friday and they had meetings with ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) I guess and made some agreement that the university would take it,” said Nicolle Tuesday morning.

Memorial president Gary Kachanoski had been in the area attending the Trails, Tales and Tunes Festival.

The Royal Ontario Museum had originally planned to take both the blue whale that washed ashore in Trout River and the one in Rocky Harbour. However, the cost to prepare and move the whale in Trout River put some doubt on whether or not it would be able to take the Rocky Harbour whale.

The museum completed dissecting the Trout River whale in Woody Point last week.

Nicolle said he’s not sure how the university plans to move the whale yet.

“It’s supposed to be going out of here this week,” he said and added “it may have to be dismantled where it’s at.”

The whale is located on the south side of the town right next to the fish plant and Nicolle said he’s happy to know it will be gone soon.

“It’s a lot better to know it’s going to be going. It’s not going to be there all summer.”

Despite concerns over having to deal with the carcass, and the impact it could have on the town, the whale has been drawing a lot of people to the town.

“I was down there on Friday evening, I think there was 35 or 40 cars of people down there looking at the whale,” said Nicolle.

Organizations: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Tales and Tunes Festival.The Royal Ontario Museum

Geographic location: Rocky Harbour, Trout River, Woody Point

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