The bones in the Smithsonian’s ‘whale warehouse’ are relics of a lost world

The smell hits you first: a nose-wrinkling, fishy stench, cut by the sharp reek of formaldehyde. Then your eyes adjust to the dim fluorescent light, and the sight takes your breath away. The National Museum of Natural History’s whale warehouse, a football field-sized facility in Suitland, Md., resembles a graveyard for giants. There are backbones as long as tennis courts, massive skulls, rib cages that could fit an entire school bus inside. There are fossil remains dating back 40 million years, to a time when whale ancestors, which lived on land, were just beginning their transition to creatures of the sea. A 24-foot pale gray jawbone at the center of the facility, taken from a blue whale slain by whalers 77 years ago, is the largest single skeletal element in any museum collection on Earth. “There are certainly no other museums that have this,” said NMNH fossil marine mammal curator Nick Pyenson, who oversees the collection.,,, Walsh was a young U.S. Coast Guard officer who had been assigned to the Ulysses in accordance with a 1937 international treaty to regulate whaling. His job was to document the factory ship’s catch and ensure that it abided by the new laws. Video, read the article here 18:16

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