This Skeleton Hanging in New Bedford Is a Whale-Oiled Machine
The New Bedford Whaling Museum lays claim to a number of impressive world titles, like the largest ship model and the largest collection of prints, artifacts, and documents of whaling history.
One of only six blue whale skeletons on display throughout the world floats above visitors as they first enter the museum in the Jacobs Family Gallery.
But this blue whale skeleton, named KOBO (King of the Blue Ocean), is even more interesting than he lets on at first glance. Attached to the front part of KOBO is a long tube that funnels down into a flask full of dark brown liquid. So far, just over 800 mL has been collected.
So what is the liquid, and how can it be seeping out of a skeleton?
Although KOBO was accidentally killed by a tanker in 1998, his skeleton has been seeping oil nearly every day. From 2000—when he was first installed in the Whaling Museum—to 2010, his skeleton would be wiped to clean off the oil drips. Blue whales are the largest creatures that have ever existed on Earth. Can you imagine having to wipe down this 66-foot-long guy every day?
Then, in 2010, out of curiosity regarding the amount of oil dripping from the whale’s rostrum, a special system was made to pipe the oil from the skull into the flask.
The oil is found deep in the skeleton's bone marrow, which is why the seeping has been such a gradual process. KOBO is estimated to continue seeping oil until at least 2060. If 800 mL of oil has been collected in nearly 10 years, we're very interested to see how much will be collected overall.
KOBO's intriguing seeping caught nationwide attention, too, and is featured in the 2018 Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Shatter Your Senses! book.
Even if you've been to the Whaling Museum before, it's well worth visiting again to learn more about KOBO and appreciate all of the rich history we have right here in our SouthCoast backyard.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. this summer and is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in New Bedford, MA. For more information, visit their website.