University of Alaska Museum of the North focuses on arctic whale in a massive new display

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 4:46 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -The University of Alaska Museum of the North has recently raised an immense and rare new display piece - a fully assembled 42-foot bowhead whale skeleton.

Patrick Druckenmiller, Director of the UA Museum of the North explained, “We’re very excited to have in our museum, hanging in the lobby, the only articulated, suspended bowhead whale skeleton in North America - and it’s a spectacular display. I think it’s going to be, or is the most amazing single exhibit in the state of Alaska.”

Bowhead whales are some of the longest lived vertebrates on earth. Some individuals may live to be up to 200 years old. This completed skeleton weighs approximately 18,000 pounds.

This immense skeleton was harvested from the Beaufort sea in 1963.
This immense skeleton was harvested from the Beaufort sea in 1963.(Ryan Osborne)

Druckenmiller continued, “The bowhead whale of course is an iconic arctic species, and of course they’re really important in the indigenous cultures, particularly the Inupiaq peoples of northern Alaska because bowhead whales are harvested for food and other materials and they’re an integral part of their culture.”

This particular skeleton was a local harvest made from the Beaufort sea by subsistence hunters in 1963, and it was brought to the university in 1965. The skull of the animal has been on display at the Museum of the North for years; but thanks to nearly $1 million of support from a foundation created by the estate of Fairbanks banker Bill Stroecker, the full skeleton can now be seen in one piece.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Bill Stroecker Foundation who made this exhibit possible. We’re really appreciative to the trustees of the board for their foresight along with Bill Stroecker’s foresight to bring this skeleton to life here in our exhibit, and it’s just an absolutely spectacular display,” Druckenmiller said.

The new exhibit will allow visitors to learn about the scientific, ecological and cultural significance of bowhead whales during the museums summer hours of 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and a collection of videos detailing the skeleton’s assembly can be viewed at the UA Museum of the North Youtube channel here.

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