PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The skeleton of a blue whale that washed ashore on the Oregon coast eight years ago was recently sent to Canada for the final cleaning process before specialists prepare it for public display at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. 

The bones from the 70-foot blue whale made the journey to Dinosaur Valley Studios in Alberta, Canada last week. There, they’ll undergo the final cleaning and preservation process. 

“The skeleton of this whale presents an extraordinary educational opportunity for students and researchers and an awe-inspiring experience for all visitors to the Oregon Coast,” said Lisa Ballance, director of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute. 

The Marine Mammal Institute’s mission to preserve the whale skeleton began in 2015 when the carcass washed ashore near Gold Beach. 

While other whale species wash ashore in Oregon relatively frequently, blue whales are rare. OSU said the last known beached blue whale in Oregon was more than 200 years ago. 

Researchers from the Marine Mammal Institute examined and dismantled the carcass. They then bundled the remains of the skeleton in huge nets and left them submerged in Yaquina Bay to allow seawater and marine invertebrates to clean them. 

The skeleton remained in the water for more than three years before it was removed in November 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the original plan to clean and restore the skeleton, but work is now resuming. 

Dinosaur Valley Studios specializes in reconstructing large animals’ skeletons. Representatives from the studio spent last week in Newport preparing the bones to be transported to their studio. 

Frank Hadfield, president of Dinosaur Valley Studios, said the project is expected to take at least several months, depending on how much additional cleaning is needed. 

The team will build a steel display structure to hold the articulated skeleton that requires no drilling. The bones will be kept intact and will be available for study by researchers. 

A blue whale skeleton contains 365 bones of various sizes. The jaw bones are 18 feet long and some of the finger bones from the flipper are only a couple of inches long. 

This will be the studio’s first time completing a blue whale skeleton. The company first started by rebuilding dinosaurs. 

“This is the largest project we’ve ever done,” Hadfield said. “The good news is the integrity of these bones is beautiful – they are in really great condition. Most of the residual oils have already been purged, which will make our job easier.” 

Oregon State University is seeking $150,000 in donations to complete the restoration and display. Since the project was first introduced, the Marine Mammal Institute has raised $250,000 for the project. 

Ballance said the institute is deeply grateful for the public’s support.