This Fascinating Whales Exhibition Is A Giant Success

Whales: Beneath the Surface, Natural History Museum ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 53 months ago

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This Fascinating Whales Exhibition Is A Giant Success Whales: Beneath the Surface, Natural History Museum 5
There are plenty of fantastic skeletons to gawp over in this show.

Standing in front of a whale's shoulder blade, we are dwarfed. Just the shoulder blade alone is almost the height of our entire body. Behind us, a giant spinal vertebra and a lengthy lower jaw of a sperm whale make us feel Lilliputian once more.

This is the Whales exhibition at Natural History Museum, timed to coincide with the unveiling of the new entrance hall, where childhood favourite Dippy has been replaced by a blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.

The scary looking skull of a killer whale.

This exhibition is full of fascinating insights into these creatures — did you know the early ancestors of whales spent most of their time on land and walked on all fours? Or that even though the 'hindlegs' have disappeared externally, a dolphin's skeleton does contain two tiny bones that are all that remains of this evolutionary hang-over?

Remember that whale that swam up the Thames? Here's its skeleton.

Many of us will remember the time a whale swam up the Thames in 2006. The skeleton of that particular northern bottlenose whale is on display here. That fulfils the cute quota, but on the terrifying side of this exhibition are three skulls of killer whales filled with razor sharp teeth — we wouldn't want to run into these in a dark ... river.

It's not all bones —  whale foetuses at different stages of development and a sperm whale's brain are also on display. It's the biggest brain of any living animal, and yet it's surprisingly not much bigger than a human brain.

A whale stomach glows to demonstrate how they digest their food.

There's a chance to listen to the calming songs of whales. Coupled with the blue lights around the exhibition and the projection of water ripples on to the ceiling, it gives a sense of serenity, as if we've been immersed into the ocean depths ourselves.

This is firmly pitched as a family exhibition so there are interactive elements to keep the little ones amused. Scan your hand to see how your skeletal structure compares to that of a whale flipper, or play a dance mat-like game where fish have to be hunted down using sonar. What child — or adult for, that matter — doesn't like animal skeletons?

It's not just whales. The show explores other creatures such as sea lions and this coelacanth skeleton - a fish that was long thought extinct until recently.

The Natural History Museum has delivered yet again with another excellent, informative exhibition, which is accessible for children and adults.

Whales: Beneath the Surface is on at Natural History Museum until 28 February. Tickets for adults are £11.50-£12.50, children £7.50-£8.50.

Last Updated 16 July 2017