In 1898, a 24m Antarctic Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus intermedia was found stranded at the mouth of the Vasse River, just east of Cape Naturaliste. Over three years, Otto Lipfert, a taxidermist with the Western Australian Museum, cleaned the flesh from the bones of this massive animal with the help of two Japanese fisherman.
They then moved it, bone by bone, on a cart to Busselton railway station to be transported to Perth. It was then reassembled in a shed at the Museum, where it remained until 1968.
In 1971 the whale skeleton was lifted onto the fifth floor of the Western Australian Museum – Perth Francis Street building before the roof went on.
The Museum’s whale collection started in 1898 with this specimen, and the collection now has nearly 500 specimens representing 39 of the 43 species of whale known from Australian waters. This Blue Whale skeleton has been an icon of both the Western Australian Museum and Western Australia ever since, and the general public have a great affection for this giant of the sea.
The long history of the Museum’s Blue Whale skeleton continues with the closure of the Francis Street building. The skeleton has been removed bone by bone once again, and conserved and stored in preparation for display in a new Museum in the future.