Beaty Biodiversity Museum – 1






One day last week, we made our first visit to Vancouver’s new Beaty Biodiversity Museum, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC). A teaching and research facility, the museum is now able to showcase UBC’s natural history collections, with more than two million specimens to the public for the first time.

Among the treasures are a 26-metre-long blue whale skeleton suspended in the two-storey glass Atrium, the second-largest fish collection in the nation, and myriad fossils, shells, insects, fungi, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants from around British Columbia and the world.

The Blue Whale Exhibit is truly magnificent and stunning as the first thing one sees already from the outside and when walking into the atrium. I didn’t, for example, know that:
Blue whales are the biggest animals that have ever lived on earth–longer than the longest known dinosaur, and much more massive.

The Blue Whale story is awe-inspiring:
On the remote northwestern coast of PEI [Prince Edward Island, a small island province in eastern Canada] in 1987, a 26 m long mature female blue whale died and washed ashore near the town of Tignish. In hopes of preserving the whale’s skeleton for research or museum display, the PEI government and the Canadian Museum of Nature arranged for the skeleton to be dragged off the beach near Nail Pond, and buried. The remains of the whale were longer than two Vancouver trolley buses parked one behind the other, and weighed an estimated 80,000 kg. Her burial was a mammoth task.

Because of the difficulty of unearthing and displaying such a large animal, the whale skeleton remained under the red PEI dirt for two decades. In 2007, the Museum of Nature and the PEI government granted UBC permission to retrieve the whale, and bring it to BC to be displayed in the new Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

Moving the skeleton from the coast of PEI to the inside of the Museum’s glass atrium, 6000 km away, [was] a challenging project…

Blue whales are the largest animal ever to have lived on earth. They rarely strand on beaches, and very few skeletons have been recovered for research or display. Worldwide, only 20 are available to the public for viewing.

We learned much from the guide and the posted displays, such as the fact that the whale was killed by a passing ship, how they had to rebuild and put together the huge bones of the skeleton, and that they are on the Red List of Endangered Species. Fortunately the Beaty’s website has excellent videos on the project to learn more, so if you are interested, do check them out at the links. Enjoy!

Continued: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.

March 27, 2011 in Canada and BC, Environment, History, Nature, Photoworks by Marja-Leena