The “Whale Hall” at the Natural History Museum

  One of the friendly workers at the museum  The highlight of the whale hall is this giant skeleton of a male sperm whale which was stranded at Barka (65 kms to the north) in September of 1986.  It was about 25 years old and 14 meters long.  The bones alone weigh 3.5 tonnes!  The whale itself, while living, would have weighed about 35 tonnes!  All the bones are original except the teeth and digits (replaced by wood), and the cartilage (replaced by plaster).  The earbones are missing.  It has been painted to preserve it and to reduce the oily smell.  Skull of a young killer whale stranded at Ras Marbat in June, 1989 (Killer whales are rarely reported near Oman.)  This skeleton is of a common adult male dolphin.  It was beached near the Bustan Palace Hotel in March 1990.  It was 2.5 meters long.  This skeleton is of a very young “false killer whale” which was drowned in a net off Ghubra (near the museum) in April 1987.  It was 2 meters long.  I had never even heard of “false killer whales” before entering this museum!  They are actually large dolphins and are fairly common in Oman’s waters.  The large conical teeth resemble those of the larger Killer Whale, hence its name.  This skeleton is of a young dwarf sperm whale which was beached near Muscat in August 1989.  It was just over 2 meters long and the museum reports that “it is probably the only skeleton of this species to be exhibited anywhere in the world”.  Shy and slow-moving, it is the smallest to be called a “whale”.  Less than 3 meters long, but robust, with its head resembling that of a Sperm Whale.  Its small and needle-like teeth on the jaw are for catching cuttle fish which it hunts at the edge of deep water in all warm seas.  This is a picture of the odd-looking “Sea Cow” or “”Dugong”.  It is the only sea-dwelling truly vegetarian mammal in the world.  It is the only surviving species in its family and is in danger of becoming extinct.  It breathes through 2 valved nostrils on the top of its nose while the body remains submerged.  A peculiar fleshy nose-disc enables it to seize seagrasses and their roots in the silty seabed. A female Dugong may live for 70 years, but she is very slow to breed.  She doesn’t have her first calf till she is at least 10 years old and has only one calf at a time, every 3 to 7 years.  The largest of the living cetaceans is the Blue Whale.  One at over 31 meters (101 feet) long, would weigh 160-200 tonnes, the size of at least 30 of the largest existing land mammals-the elephant.  Only water can support such a massive animal.  Compare this with one of the smallest cetaceans – the finless porpoise-barely 1.6 meters (5 feet) and 45 kgs.  Picture in the museum of a stranded Sperm Wall  (They say that an injured or ill cetacean may beach deliberately to avoid drowning, a fear all marine animals may have.  Interesting!)  Various bones of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) including ribs, vertabrae, skulls, craniums, humeri, pelvises, radii, phalanges and scalpulas/scalpulae.   Stages of burial, cleaning and transport from Burka to the Natural History Museum of the Sperm Whale Skeleton (Physeter Macrophalus) 1986-1987.  Stages of assembling and mounting of the Sperm Whale skeleton 1988-1990


5 responses to “The “Whale Hall” at the Natural History Museum

  1. Them are some really cool bones. Any Jonah sightings? 😀

  2. The bones were quite a sight. Of course not all of them have been captured by my camera either. I highly recommend anyone living in Oman to check it out.

    About the “Jonah sightings” comment…I know you’re probably just joking around but a LOT of people scoff at the whole “Jonah being swallowed by a large fish story”. Here is a pretty good answer to that question:
    And another one here:

  3. Hi Andy,

    I really like all the images yo have of whales in Oman.
    I’m making a video for the local museum to help them raise money for an expansion and renovation project. They have a whale, but the museum is too small to display it. May I receive your permission to use your Flase Killer whale photo in the Southland Museum and Art Gallery video I am making?

    Kind regards,
    Patrick Winters

  4. Hello, Patrick!
    Please feel free to use the False Killer whale photos (or any others) for your expansion and renovation project! I hope you end up raising lots of money for the museum! If you get a chance, please let me know how it goes! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Don’t Bother with the Sayyid Faisal Bin Ali Museum!!! | Andy in Oman

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