Whales have roamed the oceans for millions of years. Their relationship with man has historically been one of tension. Man has hunted whales for their oil, slaughtered them for food, and brought them to the edge of extinction. The more we understand about these massive creatures, the more we realize how much more we have yet to learn. While most the world has come to prize these somewhat elusive creatures for what they can teach us, there are still a few nations (Japan, Norway, Iceland) who cling to the barbaric practice of and killing these magnificent beings. The issue will come to a head in Morocco this week among pro- and anti-whaling nations at the annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting. Japan, and its unjustifyable practice of whale killing, will be the main topic of discussion. Japan’s resistance to ending this horrific annual practice is more from pride than business. Let us hope that international pressure can shame them into joining past whaling nations like New Zealand to become another champion of whale study and protection instead of continuing as their destructors.
For New Englanders hoping to learn more about whales, the timing for the Whales Tohora exhibit at Boston’s Museum Of Science (MOS) which opened on Sunday could not have been better. What do we really know about whales? This hands-on exhibit helps visitors explore the biology of these giant mammals. The exhibit spans a variety of topics including whale evolution, diversity, sounds, and reproduction. Created by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and presented by Boston Harbor Cruises, Whales Tohora features specimens from one of the world’s largest collection of whales, which includes skeletons, fossils, whalebone, and fins.
Visitors can listen to the sounds of different whales and view 58-foot long male and female skeletons of sperm whale. The exhibit is the most extensive and impressive of its kind we have seen. Here are some of the highlights:
- A Whale Lab: design your own dolphin
- Giant whale skeletons and skulls: see the history of their evolution
- Scale and full size models: climb inside a full scale Blue Whale heart
- Sound Chamber: hear how the whales echo locate and communicate
- Tanoga (Maori treasures): see items crafted from whale bone
- Whale strandings: learn about the threats to whales, natural and man-made
This exhibition was made possible through the support of the New Zealand Government and the Smithsonian Institution. Whales Tohora will be at the MOS from June 20th to September 14, 2010. Boston Harbor Cruises is currently offering a combo deal for a 3-hour whale watch and the MOS exhibit. We think it is a great idea to complete the experience for kids and adults alike.
The opening of Whales Tohora exhibit was preceeded by a lunch with speakers and performers. Roger Payne, Founder and President of Ocean Alliance, spoke about the challenges and dangers faced by whales today. Dr. Payne, along with Scott McVay, was the first researchers to discover the complex sonic arrangements performed by male humpback whales. He has spent the past four decades studying these creatures and was a major contributor to the documentary Whales, shot in IMAX format, playing at the Mugar Omni Theater. Attendees were also given a special treat by the singers and dancers from New Zealand. We learned some traditional greetings, songs, and dances. It was a wonderful afternoon for all who attended.
There are always tons of stuff happening at the MOS. While we were there for the Whales Tohora exhibit, we watched teams of high school students from across the country compete in an all-day design challenge: build wind turbines powerful enough to hoist garbage cans 40 feet to the Museum’s ceiling! The program was a collaboration with the Lemelson-MIT Program. So if you are looking for something fun, educational, or just whimsical, the Boston Museum Of Science has it covered.