Clamber inside a blue whale's heart at Telus Spark's new exhibit

Whales Tohorā, an exhibit from the National Museum of New Zealand, made a splash in Calgary on Saturday.

Whales Tohorā on its last stop before heading home to New Zealand

Visitors to Telus Spark's Whales Tohorā exhibit have the chance to climb inside a model of a blue whale's heart. (Francois Joly/CBC)

Child-size visitors to Calgary's Telus Spark have a unique opportunity — to clamber inside a life-size model of a blue whale's heart. 

Whales Tohorā, an exhibit from the National Museum of New Zealand, made a splash in Calgary on Saturday when it opened for what will be the last stop on its 10-year tour before it returns back to its home. 

"It's about the cultural connections between humans and whales, and also the scientific research that's happening," said Allison Simpson, manager of exhibits at Telus Spark.

The exhibit has five complete whale skeletons on display, including two sperm whales — a 60-year-old female and a juvenile male that died before it was fully grown.

The Whales Tohorā exhibit has full-size whale skeletons on display. (Francois Joly/CBC)

Māori weaponry and adornments will also be on display.

New Zealand is geographically located in such a way that it gets a significant amount of whale strandings, Simpson said, so while Māori people don't have a tradition of hunting the gentle giants, they have been harvesting parts from the animals for more than 1,000 years. 

Māori culture regards whales with reverence — they're seen as friends and guardians, as evidenced by the Maori myth of Paikea, the whale-rider.

Watch a traditional Maori blessing of this whale skull

5 years ago
Duration 0:39
A traditional Maori blessing ceremony was held today at Telus Spark to kick off the Whales Tohora exhibit from New Zealand.

"The thing with whales is that they cross international boundaries," Simpson said.

"We have about 33 different species of whales that appear in Canadian waters."

The exhibit is expected to pass the 3-million-visitor mark while in Calgary.

Visitors can experience Whales Tohorā until June 20 at Telus Spark

With files from Francois Joly