PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A rare blue whale that washed ashore in Southern Oregon in 2015 has been raised to dry land for good to be preserved.
The 78-foot blue whale has 365 bones, a 6,500-pound skull and an 18-foot mandible. Once it’s fully cleaned and preserved, it will be reassembled and put on display.
The whale was dead when it washed up on Ophir Beach. It was extremely rare because blue whales generally stay away from the coast.
Bruce Mate with Orgon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute said until this whale, there hadn’t been a beached blue whale in Oregon since Lewis and Clark saw Native Americans salvaging parts of a blue whale.
The Marine Mammal Institute has been working to raise the carcass for three years and after getting a large donation from an anonymous donor, they were able to start the next phase of the project.
“It is just a wonderful gift from someone whose generosity will benefit generations of Oregonians who they likely will never meet,” Mate said in a press release. “A blue whale skeleton is a marvel to behold – and now many, many people will have that opportunity because of this gift.”
Researchers dismantled the carcass and removed 58 tons of flesh, then left parts of the skeleton submerged in bundles for three years to be naturally cleaned by scavengers.
Now that the remains are being raised, they will be cleaned even more to remove all fats and oils so they will last for decades.
“We’ve got a bunch of work to do to get everything cleaned up,” Mate said. “It’s critical to get the oil out of the bones to help preserve the skeleton and keep it from becoming rancid.”
The reassembled skeleton will eventually be put on display at a new marine studies building at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.