Sperm whale exhibit to be ready by end of February

Curator Marcus Chua (left) and conservator Kate Pocklington at work preparing the whale skeleton.
Curator Marcus Chua (left) and conservator Kate Pocklington at work preparing the whale skeleton.PHOTO: LEE KONG CHIAN NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Singapore's very own sperm whale specimen, nicknamed Jubi Lee, is set to go on display at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum by the end of February.

Museum head Peter Ng was coy about exactly where the 10.6m-long exhibit would go, but he did reveal that the skeleton is likely to be placed at eye level.

"As with all our other exhibits, we want visitors to be able to get up close and personal as far as possible, and hanging the whale high up would defeat this purpose," he told The Straits Times.

The 9-tonne adult female sperm whale was found dead in local waters on July 10. The specimen was affectionately dubbed Jubi Lee - a reference to the museum and the fact that it was found during the nation's Golden Jubilee year.

 
 

Museum staff worked around the clock for months to preserve the skeleton and to collect as much data as possible from the carcass.

The bones are now in the final stages of degreasing. Museum conservator Kate Pocklington said each bone has to go through about five such cycles. Oil must be completely removed to ensure that the bones do not weaken over time or start to smell.

The hope is that the exhibit can replace the 13m-long baleen whale skeleton displayed at the old National Museum from 1907 to 1974. It was later presented as a gift to Malaysia.

The natural history museum, which opened in April at the National University of Singapore, is rolling out yearly membership passes. Prices start from $37.45 for a year's unlimited admission for an individual cardholder. There are also membership passes for families, corporations and public schools.

For Singaporeans and permanent residents, tickets cost $16 for adults and $9 for children and senior citizens.

Professor Ng said: "The museum is housed in a university, which is after all a teaching and research institution. We are not funded by the Government, so we have to charge for admission, but we also want to encourage more people to visit and learn."

• For more information, visit http://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Sperm whale exhibit to be ready by end of February'. Print Edition | Subscribe