Nfld. & Labrador

Whale pavilion opens in Newfoundland

A 15-metre long humpback whale skeleton has gone on display in an isolated community in northeastern Newfoundland thanks to almost a decade of work by volunteers.

Part of larger plan to display skeletons in 6 northeastern towns.

The humpback whale skeleton was extracted from a carcass that washed up in northeastern Newfoundland nine years ago. ((Courtesy of Tim Rast))
A 15-metre long humpback whale skeleton has gone on display in an isolated community in northeastern Newfoundland thanks to almost a decade of work by volunteers.

King's Point is the second in a string of six communities across the region that plan to develop a network of whale skeleton pavilions.

The first pavilion opened in Triton in 2008. It houses a 12-metre-long skeleton of a sperm whale.

Members of the King's Point Heritage Society said they had no idea what they were taking on when they proposed building a whale pavilion nine years ago after a dead whale washed up on the beach near Cobb's Arm.

The King's Point Heritage Society hopes the 15-metre-long skeleton will attract tourists to the community. ((Courtesy of Tim Rast))
"This is a mammoth project," said the heritage society's Maurice Budgell. "We had an excavator on site, a D7 tractor, and a tractor trailer rig."

First, the 50-tonne carcass was towed more than 100 kilometres by boat to King's Point. Then, volunteers spent countless hours cutting the blubber off the skeleton. Budgell said the work was a powerful assault on their senses.

"The smell of blubber was awful, and I mean it was atrocious," he said.

Once most of the meat was stripped from the skeleton, the volunteers let nature finish the job.

"We built crates, and the bones were put into the salt water, and it was the shrimp and the small marine life that ate the flesh and fat off the bones," said Budgell.

Next, the heritage society turned to experts in western Canada for help.

"The bones were then shipped to Alberta where they were assembled by people who specialize in assembling dinosaur skeletons," said Budgell.

He said the $700,000 project, which received money from both the federal and provincial governments, has definitely been worth the effort.

"When it was done, it was just unreal," Budgell said.

Some King's Point residents said the result has taken them by surprise.

"I didn't think it would be this big," said Abigail Hewitt, who went to look at the skeleton herself when the pavilion opened in late July.

Nearby communities of Little Bay Islands, Middle Arm, Westport and La Scie are also planning to build whale skeleton pavilions as part of what is being called the Dr. Jon Lien Great Whale Tour Network of Green Bay and White Bay

The network is named after an internationally renowned Newfoundland and Labrador whale researcher and rescuer, who died at the age of 71 in April.