New Brunswick

Whale bones find new home on Grand Manan

A humpback whale that washed ashore on Sheep Island in the Bay of Fundy three years ago has found its final resting place at the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station.

Harmonic, the humpback whale that washed ashore on Sheep Island 3 years ago, will be used for research

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      A humpback whale that washed ashore on Sheep Island in the Bay of Fundy three years ago has found its final resting place at the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station.

      The bones of the whale, dubbed Harmonic, will be kept there for research.

      Don Dearborn, a biology professor at Bates College in Maine, said the reason the facility was chosen was because the whale was familiar to fishermen and researchers in the area.

      "It was an animal that spent its summers around here," said Dearborn. "Humpbacks are migratory and spend [North American] winters in tropical waters, but this is an animal that for part of the year at least called the Bay of Fundy home."

      Research done on the whale showed no evidence of either being hit by a ship, or being caught up in fishing nets.

      "It died of unknown causes offshore and then was seen by local fishermen, then just happened to wash up [on Sheep Island]," said Dearborn.

      It took three years to move the bones because the large amount of flesh on them had to decompose first. (Submitted by Peter Cunningham)
      Even though the whale washed up on shore three years ago, the bones are just now getting to the research station, due to its massive size.

      "There wasn't much to do with it initially, even for people that might have been interested in getting it to a museum," said Dearborn.

      "There's so much flesh on it and their skin is so tough it just takes quite a while to decompose enough that you could actually collect bones."

      When it was time for the whale bones to be brought to Grand Manan, local fisherman Russell Ingalls and his son, Chris, who found the whale, helped to transport them.

      "Russell brought his fishing boat over, and then we used two skiffs to ferry the smaller bones out," said Dearborn.

      While it's a great opportunity to study the biology of this creature, Dearborn says it comes at a steep price.

      "Whales are amazing creatures. They're super intelligent, and even just picking it up, packaging it, taking it to a museum, is something that you do with at least a heavy heart. It's an exciting thing, but it's also a weighty thing to do," said Dearborn.

      Don Dearborn, biology professor at Bates College in Maine, was part of a team that moved a humpback whale skeleton from Sheep Island to Grand Manan. 8:16

      With files from Information Morning Saint John