In 1867, a 27.5-metre whale was recovered from Jan Juc beach in Victoria and was identified as a Black Right Whale. For many years, the articulated skeleton was displayed outside the museum’s building at the University of Melbourne. Due to the ravages of nature, only a few odd bones and some baleen remain, but these are enough to reveal that the individual is in fact Blue Whale. Over the past 100 years, other Blue Whales have been stranded along the Victorian coastline.
Blue Whales are the largest animals ever to live, and they can occasionally be seen in Victoria’s deep offshore waters. The skeleton pictured here is of a juvenile male stranded on a beach at Cathedral Rock, near Lorne, Victoria, on 5 May 1992. It weighed 40 tonnes and was 18.7 metres long; removing it from its beached position to the museum required several cranes, a bulldozer and a low loader.
The taxonomy of Blue Whales remains debatable. This specimen has been assigned to the subspecies known as the Pygmy Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda. Many scientists argue that this taxon is merely a subspecies, while others insist it is a separate species. Analysis of DNA might provide further evidence one way or the other.
Meanwhile, the Blue Whale’s articulated skeleton draws an appreciative crowd at the museum. It is by far the largest animal displayed at the museum and epitomises the variety of remarkable fauna found in Victoria.