Safe journey for bowhead whale
Assignment: To transport a 170-year-old stuffed bowhead whale from Copenhagen to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek in Denmark.
Agent: MTAB in Copenhagen, managed by Jørgen Damlund
Client: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
The autumn sun is shining from a clear blue sky when the MTAB truck slowly backs up to the garage door at the Zoological Museum at the University of Copenhagen. Mogens Andersen and Abdi Hadeyat open the door and there it is
– the whale. Resting on three sturdy wooden frames is a stuffed whale calf, dating from 1843 and measuring more than four metres in length.
The mother whale was probably killed by hunters and they decided to save the newborn calf,”
says Mogens, who is an assistant curator at the Zoological Museum.
Gently and carefully
The whale is very fragile and MTAB in Copenhagen has been extremely thorough in preparing for this move. A lot of time has been spent planning transportation materials and equipping the truck. The whale has been precisely measured and examined and a special foam base has been produced to support it. Two extra staff have been brought in to assist on the day.
“The whale is very fragile and we have to handle it with great care,”says Jørgen as he pulls on a pair of white gloves before he and his colleagues carefully secure lifting slings around the whale.
Mogens keeps a close eye on the work being done. It is 60 years since the whale was last moved. That was when it was transferred from the former Zoological Museum in Copenhagen to its present location atthe University of Copenhagen.
“I have great confidence in the transport company. They show meticulous attention to detail and seem to know exactly what they’e doing. It’s exciting that the whale is going on display. It’s very special because it’s old and in such good condition,”says Mogens.
The whale is carefully raised and placed on the specially-made foam base inside the truck. Various supports, blankets and plates are adjusted so that the whale is perfectly positioned before the door is shut. Jørgen climbs into the cab, blows into the alcolock and starts the engine. The truck begins its journey north to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek. The exhibition is called Arctic and the whale will be on public display from 26 September 2013 to 2 February 2014.
Jesper Lund Madsen at Louisiana is satisfied with how the whale was transported:
“I’ve heard nothing but praise from my colleagues. Our main requirements were that the whale must be transported in a climate-controlled vehicle and handled with utmost care. MTAB certainly fulfilled both those criteria.”
When the truck arrived at Louisiana, it was time for a shorter trip to a cold storage facility in Helsingör. The whale was placed inside a freezer for five days to kill any bacteria and pests, which might otherwise have damaged it during the exhibition. The whale is now back in place and I asked Jørgen if this was like any of his previous assignments:
“Oh no! This job was different and special. We’ve never moved a whale before…. It was a challenge and it feels great that the whale is safely in place. Both the Zoological Museum and Louisiana were very pleased,” says Jørgen Damlund.