Chicago's Field Museum thinking big -- about whales

May 17, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The museum of New Zealand organized the show.

"They are going to see some great history of the way whales evolved. They originally were land-based creatures and over tens of millions of years adapted to the sea," John McCarter, president, The Field Museum, said.

It's true. The ancient ancestors of today's deep sea monsters were plain old four-legged land lubbers. Fast forward 50 million years and a look at the whales of today in the South Pacific. Meet the people who depended on whales for survival and listen to the whales sing their songs. The star of this exhibit is a sixty foot long sperm whale that washed up on a new zealand shore eight years ago. The skeleton now tells the story of the Moby Dick-type creature with the big, square head filled with a milky substance that early whalers thought was sperm.

"It was an incredibly prized material that was used to oil fine machinery and to light the lamps of Europe and the U.S. It was the gold of the time," said Anton van Helden, Museum of New Zealand, said.

The blue whale is the largest animal on earth. The creature's heart would probably weigh a couple of tons. So the blue whale is the ultimate giant of the deep.

"The blue whale is in fact over a hundred feet long. It's much longer than the sperm whale and weighs three times as much so three hundred and 75,000 pounds," Tom Skwerski, project manager, Field Museum, said.

Museum tickets for all exhibits range in price from $15 to $29.

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