One of the rarest marine specimens in the world is coming home to the Canadian Museum of Nature to become the centerpiece of a new permanent exhibit opening this spring.

Experts at the Canadian Museum of Nature are in the process of mounting a blue whale skeleton in the Water Gallery.

Once mounted, the whale will be the first and only specimen of its kind mounted in Canada, said Jonathan Ferrabee, exhibition designer with the Canadian Museum of Nature.

The blue whale — the largest animal on the planet — was collected from a Codroy, N.L., beach in 1975 and shipped to Ottawa during a rail strike in the middle of a heat wave, said Clayton Kennedy, senior collection technician at the museum who is in charge of the installation.

The whale — an immature female measuring 19 metres that Kennedy estimates was between four to six years old when it was likely killed by a ship strike — was buried in the National Capital Commission orchard, dug up in 1983, washed off and was stored in the Canadian Museum of Nature collection room since.

The museum built a 2,000-litre tank to further degrease the 5,000 pounds of bone.

Before the renovations at the museum, there was never space to display it, said Kennedy.

The installation, which began Monday, will be completed sometime next week and be open to public viewing when the Victoria Memorial Museum Building reopens on May 22.

Kennedy believes the whale will be a popular feature. “It’s a rare species and this is an opportunity to see at least a skeleton close up,” he said.

The Water Gallery is about water as a broad subject, Ferrabee said.

While the whale will be featured in the oceans section along with a Pacific aquarium, the freshwater section features a huge freshwater aquarium that shows off river life in eastern and central Canada. “You’ll see a lot of freshwater fish that live right in our backyard,” he said.

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