Blue Whale Update

Posted: April 13, 2015 - 11:20 , by ROM
Three men working next to a shipping container that contains the Blue Whale bones and manure.

Blue Whale Update


Last spring, a team from the ROM, including deputy director, Mark Engstrom, and assistant curator, Burton Lim, helped salvage one of two blue whales that had died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence ice pack and washed ashore on the west coast of Newfoundland. This recovery project (featured in our Fall 2014 issue) was only the first step in turning a tragic event into a positive educational and research opportunity.


In October, the bones of the 100-ton whales were buried in manure compost at a location in Trenton Ont., which is just the start of what may become a two-year process to get them completely de-fleshed and grease-free. Once cleaned, the bones will be brought to the ROM to be prepared for display. In the meantime, the DNA from tissue samples is being sequenced to help in the understanding of the unique evolution of marine mammals and the conservation of this endangered species. 


Whale bones being covered in manure compost that will thoroughly clean the bones with natural enzymes and bacteria. The cleaning process is expected to take more than a year.

If you’re interested in learning more about this project, Lim will be giving a talk on various aspects of the project, “Big Blue Whale Bones: How to Get Them Home,” on April 30 at the ROM. For more information please contact