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Santa Barbara’s Blue Whale Skeleton Returning Home

Museum of Natural History will unveil the newly restored exhibit Wednesday

After nine months of some well-deserved R&R — restoration and refurbishment — Santa Barbara’s iconic Blue Whale skeleton will come home to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on Wednesday for articulation and installation.

In addition to the direct physical benefits of restoration, the museum had an opportunity to display the bones of the Blue Whale in a more anatomically correct position.

After more than 35 years of managing the Marine Mammal Stranding Network for the tricounty area, the museum has gathered additional data and research about the anatomy of blue whales, so the museum took the opportunity to share this knowledge with the public by modifying the orientation for a number of bones — mandibles, hyoid bones, front limbs, sternum and ribs — along with the position of the skeleton.

The Blue Whale skeleton will be positioned as if the whale is beginning a deep dive with a noticeable arch in the end of the vertebral column. The new orientation has resulted in changes in the positions of the mandibles, ribs, vertebral column, hyoids, sternum and flippers. For some, these changes will be quite evident. There is one change that the public will clearly notice and enjoy — the ability to once again walk under the skeleton and into the rib cage to experience the sheer size of these gentle giants.

“It is a beautiful thing to see the tail fluke or the top of a blue whale as it is swimming in the ocean,” said Paul Collins, museum curator of vertebrate zoology. “It’s quite another experience to see, feel and understand the majesty of these animals when you are standing where its heart would be pumping.”

The museum’s blue whale skeleton has greeted more than 2 million visitors for more than 25 years; and thanks to the donors that funded the project and the experts who completed the meticulous restoration, “Chad” the Blue Whale skeleton will continue to greet hundreds of thousands of adults and children for generations to come. The museum’s Blue Whale skeleton is proudly named “Chad” thanks to the leadership gift of the Dreier family. The skeleton is truly a generational icon, so museum trustee Doug Dreier and his family named it “Chad,” which is the middle name of the men in the Dreier family for three generations.

The restoration project cost $500,000, and the museum reached the goal on Oct. 20. The museum is still accepting donations for its Buy-A-Bone campaign to raise funds for a maintenance fund that will provide annual support to clean and maintain the new Blue Whale skeleton exhibit.

The installation process is estimated to take 10 days from Wednesday through Nov.19. The work will begin about 8 a.m. each day and last until about 4 p.m. The public is invited to visit the museum each day to watch the reassembly of this impressive refurbished skeleton.

— Easter Moorman is the marketing and public relations manager for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

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