Giant skeleton of 80-tonne whale dismantled at University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 27 September 2013

At the old Museum of Zoology, a finback whale used to hang over skeletons of African and Indian elephants. Stretching the length of the gallery, this former resident of Pevensey Bay, whose Sussex beach it washed up on in 1865, is now going back into storage while improvements are made to its home.

A photo of the skeleton of a whale hanging in a kind of carpark enclosure
A spot of whaling at the University of Cambridge© Tom Mayle
The old building was demolished in 1965 – 99 years after the University of Cambridge took ownership of the 70-foot long body. Its mammalian owner weighed 80 tons, and 19 men had to carry its skull up flights of stairs when it was first placed on a podium.

Nigel Larkin, a specialist conservator who possesses “vast experience” in taking apart large zoological artefacts, will spend the next few weeks dismantling the skeleton, which has hung above the entrance to the new museum building since 1996.

Even the metal framework it entered in was historic: the team used the original set-up designed by the university’s Engineering Laboratory during the 1890s. The museum is expected to be closed for three years.

More pictures:

A photo of a giant whale skeleton being dismantled
An iconic part of the museum's new building, the whale will go into storage for a few years© University of Cambridge
A photo of a giant whale skeleton being dismantled
A specialist conservator will try to ensure the move is a smooth one© University of Cambridge
A photo of a giant whale skeleton being dismantled
The whale has been part of the university's history for 140 years© University of Cambridge
A black and white photo of a huge whale skeleton inside a zoological museum
The finback first entered the museum in 1866© University of Cambridge
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