Location: Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario
We collected and mounted twelve Canadian whale skeletons on behalf of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). The skeletons are currently showcased in their mammal galleries.
We received a call from the ROM on November 5th, 2001 asking if we could help assist in retrieving a right whale. The whale had died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and washed up on the east shore of Magdelan Island. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans instructed us on flensing the whale – the process of removing flesh from bones. With the help of a back-hoe, the skeleton was flensed, put into a container, and shipped back to our shop. The skeleton was then buried in a bed of horse manure and left to naturally deflesh and degrease.
Since then, we have retrieved a sperm whale and a fin whale. The fin whale was challenging to retrieve. It was found close to Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia approximately 60 feet from shore. The whale was completely inaccessible with any vehicle or heavy equipment. We walked all of our equipment 10 km to the site and suited up in chest waders and windbreakers with custom-made flensing knives in hand. We cut 4 feet square sections of flesh off of the 56-foot long animal. In three days, we managed to remove all of the flesh around the ribs and vertebrae. On the fourth day, we were warned of an impending storm that could possibly wash the rest of the whale out to the ocean. Concerned that we would not have enough time to flense the head or tail on site before the storm, we dragged the head and tail tethered on a 50’ line with a fishing boat into the closest harbour. The waves were 10 feet high by the time we reached the harbour. We arrived in Forchu Bay (a little sea sick) at 11pm, with the head and tail safely in tow. The next morning, the bones and remaining carcass were hoisted into a container with a crane and trucked back to our shop.