Blue whale skeleton Hope replaces Dippy, Natural History Museum

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The giant skeleton of a blue whale called Hope, replacing Dippy the Diplodocus, is now on permanent display in Hintze Hall at London’s Natural History Museum. Many natural history lovers will miss Dippy; however, it was a replica, while the blue whale skeleton is the real thing. Dippy had been on display from 1979 until January 2017.

Hintze Hall reopened today, Friday, 14th July, 2017, after undergoing an extensive revamp.

Visitors to the museum will have the opportunity to walk underneath the 25.2-metre blue whale skeleton – the largest creature ever to have lived on our planet.

The blue whale – a symbol of hope

The Natural History Museum says it chose the name Hope for the skeleton of the female blue whale as a symbol of our power to shape a sustainable future.

In the 20th century, the blue whale was hunted to the brink of extinction. It was also one of the first species that we decided to save on a worldwide scale.

Blue Whale Skeleton HOPE - Natural History MuseumHope, the blue whale skeleton, in its new Hintze Hall home. Visitors will be able to walk underneath it. (Image: adapted from nhm.ac.uk)

British veteran broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, the Museum’s Patron, attended a gala launch reception on 13th July, ahead of the public opening.

Regarding the transformation of Hintze Hall, Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum, said:

“This is a landmark moment for the Museum and for the millions of people from all over the world who visit us. The transformation of Hintze Hall represents a new era for us as a natural history museum for the future.”

“We are living at a critical point in the history of the Earth. This generation’s decisions will have an unprecedented impact on the world we live in.”

“It is within the grasp of humanity to shape a future that is sustainable, and now more than ever we want our galleries and exhibitions to inspire a love of the natural world, and our scientific expertise to inform solutions to the big, global challenges we face.

The blue whale

There were approximately one-quarter of a million blue whales across our oceans in the 1800s. Following several decades of commercial hunting, which nearly drove the species to extinction, there were only about 400 left in 1966.

In 1966, in London, humanity took a remarkable decision to legally protect the blue whale from commercial hunting. Since 1966, the global population of this beautiful, giant animal has grown steadily, reaching an estimated 20,000 today.

Hope was a blue whale that became stranded in 1891 in Wexford Harbour, Ireland, one decade after the Natural History Museum opened in London.

The museum bought the skeleton and initially displayed it in the Mammal Hall in 1934, where it was suspended above a real-size model of a blue whale – however, it was not in full view.

Dignitaries below blue whale skeletonHRH The Duchess of Cambridge with Sir David Attenborough (middle) and Sir Michael Dixon, the Museum’s Director, beneath Hope the blue whale. (Image: nhm.ac.uk)

Whales – the giants of the ocean

The Museum’s Collections Manager (Vertebrates), Richard Sabin, a leading whale expert, said:

“Whales are incredibly mysterious and behaviourally complex creatures, as well as being the giants of the ocean. I remember visiting the Museum as a child and being amazed when I came face-to-face with the blue whale skeleton we are now unveiling in Hintze Hall.”

“In her stunning new home, she is even more spectacular. It is impossible not to be struck by the sheer scale and majesty of this beautiful creature as she dives towards you when you enter the Museum.”

“My first encounter with the blue whale skeleton became a defining moment in my life, and I am sure Hope will inspire a new generation of visitors.”

Preparing the blue whale skeleton

Conservation teams, engineers, and curators have been working on Hope’s skeleton for several months, most of the time in an off-site warehouse, cleaning and preparing her 221 bones for the big move.

The Museum’s Head of Conservation, Lorraine Cornish, said:

“Hope is the only blue whale skeleton in the world to be hung in the diving lunge feeding position. Suspending such a large, complex and historical specimen from a Victorian ceiling was always going to be challenging, but we were determined to show her in as lifelike position as possible and we are thrilled that the result is truly spectacular.”

The reopening of Hintze Hall is the Museum’s first major moment in a decade of transformation that will see it ambitiously redevelop its outside space and make its extensive collections accessible to people all over the country, as well as globally, through digitisation and tours.

Regarding the many people and organisations that helped make the project possible, Sir Michael said:

“I’d like to express our enormous thanks to our donors and supporters who have made this project possible – especially the Hintze Family Foundation, The Cadogan Charity, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Sackler Trust, The Wolfson Foundation, all of the supporters of our Wonder Bays, and Rio Tinto and the Eastern Guruma People in the Pilbara region of Australia.”

Dippy the Diplodocus is about to embark on a 24-month tour of the UK, visiting, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and five regions of England. The aim of the tour is to connect people with nature and spark the imagination of young naturalists, environmentalists and scientists.

HintzeHintze Hall used to be called the Central Hall. In 2014, a British-Australian billionaire businessman and philanthropist – Sir Michael Hintze (above) – donated £5 million to the Natural History Museum. Today, the hall is named after him. (Image: Forbes)

BBC2 Horizon – Hope the blue whale

On 13th July, in a BBC2 Horizon episode, Sir David narrated the story of replacing Dippy’s replica cast with Hope’s natural skeleton.

The producers of the programme spent over two years behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum following the people involved in what has been one of the most unique engineering challenges ever undertaken.

Video – The Blue Whale – 3-year labour of love

This Natural History Museum says it has reached the end of a three-year project to install the skeleton of ‘Hope’, a female blue whale skeleton, in the museum’s central space.

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