Cambridge landmark 70-foot whale skeleton to be dismantled

Whale Skeleton.

Whale Skeleton. - Credit: Archant

It is one of Cambridgeshire’s most iconic exhibits and took 19 workmen to erect but the 70-foot long whale skeleton at the entrance of the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge is about to be dismantled

The large finback whale, which has been owned by the University of Cambridge since May 1866, will be removed from its lofty pedestal at the entrance while a three-year refurbishment is carried out at the museum.

The skeleton will be stored till then but the museum hasn’t said when or if it will be returned to the entrance where it is seen by thousands of students and visitors every term.

The whale, which was washed up at Pevensey Bay in Sussex in 1865, was originally put on display by the university at the old Museum of Zoology where it was suspended over skeletons of an African and Indian elephant, and stretched the length of the gallery.

That building was demolished in 1965, and the skeleton was brought out of storage to be re-displayed in its current location back in 1996. It was a mammoth task to move the skeleton and took 19 men to carry the skull up the stairs.


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The relocation team used the original metal framework designed by the University’s Engineering Laboratory back in the 1890s, and an extra beam built by Mackay Engineering of Cambridge, to suspend the whale on its current podium.

Conservator Nigel Larkin, who has a vast experience of dismantling large zoological artefacts, has been brought in to take apart the Cambridge landmark that has taken pride of place outside the Museum of Zoology for nearly 30 years and been part of Cambridge’s history for over 140 years.

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The operation is expected to take several weeks.

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