[A] 12m (40ft) long Fin Whale is ready to go on display in Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in the New Year.
Discovered at Drigg Point, near Ravenglass, on the West Cumbrian coast by a dog walker in February 2014, it has taken almost three years to prepare for display.
However, it hasn’t been easy to get the whale, fondly named ‘Driggsby’ by visitors, to Tullie House.
When it was first discovered, a campaign began to acquire the specimen and permission was obtained from Muncaster Estate (who owned the land on which the whale was found), Natural England, Copeland District Council and the Marine Management Organisation in order to recover the remains of the whale in August 2014.
By this time, the whale was decomposed and had been broken up by a storm, with several bones missing. However, two thirds of the whale were successfully recovered.
Three years of hard labour followed including firstly burying the bones in sand and compost to remove the remaining flesh, before they were unearthed and taken to the museum. A team of museum volunteers then cleaned and identified the bones.
Towards the end of last year, Driggsby was identified as a Fin Whale and was sent off to Nigel Larkin, a conservator of natural history in Shropshire to be prepared for display. Preparation has included painstakingly cleaning the bones, moulding and casting the missing vertebrae and articulating the skeleton in sections ready for mounting.
When the iconic Driggsby arrives back in Carlisle early next year, the Fin Whale will be installed in the Atrium by Nigel Larkin for visitors to see for years to come.
Curator Dr Simon Jackson, who has led much of this project, is excited about the whale’s arrival at Tullie House. “It is fantastic that we are able to display Driggsby, which will be a major museum centrepiece and hopefully a legacy, not only for the museum but for the City of Carlisle. Our unique specimen, one of the ‘freshest’ whale skeletons to be prepared, articulated and displayed, for a century in Britain, will promote the appreciation and enjoyment of the amazing natural world.”
The amazing exhibit will be accompanied by a display, which will feature the skull of a Minke Whale and a skull cast of the extinct ancient whale, Dorudon, which lived 40 million years ago, both on loan from Manchester Museum.
The installation of Driggsby the Whale takes place week commencing Monday 8th January 2018 and visitors will be able to see Tullie House’s latest edition in its glory from mid-January.
The project is supported using public funding by Arts Council England (PRISM), and is also supported by The Binks Trust, The Drigg and Carleton Community Benefit Fund and the Cumberland News.
A series of events to celebrate the arrival of Driggsby the Whale is taking place. Visit www.tulliehouse.co.uk for further details.