In 2015, the carcass of a giant blue whale washed ashore. Scientists were agog. It’s rare to see an entire blue whale on the beach. The last time was more than 200 years ago—when the Lewis and Clark expedition found one in 1806. After studying it, the scientists sent it back to sea. Now three years later, the giant beast’s skeleton has resurfaced.
As much as 50% to 80% of all life on Earth lives in the ocean. Humans have explored less than 20% of that space. Swimming in the deep sea are blue whales, the largest of God’s creatures. They’re bigger than even the largest dinosaurs, according to Bruce Mate, emeritus director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute.
Blue whales amaze scientists. Yet God expects such creatures to glorify Him—not just themselves. Psalm 148:7 says, “Praise the Lord from the Earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths.” (NIV) How much more should humans praise God for His creative power!
This beached specimen was about as long as two school buses. Its damaged body washed ashore near Gold Beach, Oregon. That’s unusual. “[The blue whale is] typically a deep-water animal, farther offshore—10 miles or more,” says Mate. “When they do die, they usually sink to the bottom.”
Seizing the unusual opportunity then, scientists removed 58 tons of flesh from the carcass. The team found bruising from burst blood vessels on the creature’s head. The bruises suggest that the whale was alive when something—probably a large ship—hit it.
According to Mate, the adult male whale was undernourished when it died. The ship strike was probably “the thing that knocked it off in the end. It was already in bad health,” he says.
After removing the flesh, scientists placed the bones in huge nets. Then they put weights on the nets and placed the mammoth bundle in the ocean. Scientists hoped underwater scavengers would pick the bones clean.
In late November 2019, scientists hauled the bones to the surface again. Ocean flesh-eaters had done some work, but not all. Volunteers joined in the goopy process of removing oil and fat from the bones.
“We’ve got a bunch of work to do to get everything cleaned up,” Mate says. “It’s critical to get the oil out of the bones to help preserve the skeleton and keep it from becoming rancid.”
After the cleaning, scientists plan to reassemble all 365 bones and study them. The restoration will take about a year. Eventually, the skeleton—including 18-foot-long jawbones and 6,500-pound skull—will go on display at Oregon’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.