The blue whale skeleton restoration project at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has received a big boost with the donation of $100,000 from the Dreier family: Chad and Ginni Dreier, Doug and Hanna Dreier, and Rob and Karen Wilson. There is still quite a way to go however. The cost of the first two of the four phases of restoration is estimated at around $400,000, and that number is ever-changing due to new findings, according to a museum spokesperson. With the Dreiers’ donation, the museum has about $267,000 dedicated for the project.
“The more we learn about the bones the more we learn about the cost,” said Easter Moorman, marketing and public relations manager for the museum. “It’s a moving target.”
The first phase is to provide a new skull for the whale. This will be made possible with the availability of the skull from a blue whale that washed ashore in Ventura in 2007. Luckily the skulls are almost matching, being within a foot in length of each other. The new skull will be partly new, and partly original bone pieces from the existing skeleton-one of only five on display in the United States, and the most complete-which washed ashore near Point Arguello, on Vandenberg Air Force Base, in 1980. The Ventura skull is being held in Gaviota where it is undergoing maceration, a long process that involves removal of all soft tissue. This process can take up to two years and is nearing completion.
Phases two, three, and four involve restoring the rest of the skeleton, and designing and placing the new permanent exhibit.
The total expenses include such equipment as steam cleaners, cranes, and vats; and the staffing needed to bring new life to a couple of the largest mammals on earth, who just happened to wash up on nearby shores.