The skeleton of a blue whale that beached in western P.E.I. 22 years ago is finally ready for public viewing at a specially built display in British Columbia.


The jaw of the whale coming out of the ground in P.E.I. in May of 2008. ((CBC))

The 26-metre long skeleton fills a two-storey glass atrium on the Vancouver campus at UBC. It's so big people can hardly believe it's real.

But Pierre-Yves Daoust knows it is. A wildlife pathologist at Charlottetown's Atlantic Veterinary College, he helped dig up the whale two years ago. The Discovery Channel is flying Daoust and two other Islanders west to see the exhibit.

"I'm sure it's going to be amazing," said Daoust.

"Blue whales are very large whales, but this one was a very decent size. And knowing all the work that has been put into assembling the skeleton, I cannot wait to see it. It's going to be a marvel basically."

Blue whales rarely beach, and there are only 20 blue whale skeletons in the world on public display. This is the first one in Canada. When this whale beached in 1987, it was buried specifically with the intention that it would one day be dug up for display.

Sandra Keough, a P.E.I. wildlife conservation officer, will also be making the trip west.

Connection 'from one coast to the other'

"I think it means a lot for P.E.I.," said Keough.

"It's quite a connection from one coast to the other. I think it's amazing that the whale is going to be on display and it's not still in the ground."

UBC professor Andrew Trites, who is in charge of the project, said there may be a way to bring a replica of the whale back to P.E.I.

"We have, in fact, just finished scanning the entire skeleton," said Trites.

"While the whale will initially just live digitally, it will one day be possible to take this blueprint we've created and build a replica that could be in Tignish, we hope. Another way to link the bonds between our communities."

The exhibit opens to the public on Friday.