The complete skeleton of a 14-metre blue whale that died on the north Queensland coast will eventually hang in the Queensland Museum.
Queensland’s Environmental Protection Agency said the juvenile male was discovered stranded at the Australian Institute of Marine Science at Cape Cleveland, south of Townsville, on Tuesday.
The EPA said the whale died not long after being stranded.
Scientists from the museum are travelling to Cape Cleveland on Monday to take flesh samples and the entire skeleton of the dead whale as part of the museum’s collection.
They are expected to take two days to cut away most of the flesh and transport the skeleton, including the whale’s four-metre-long skull by truck to Brisbane.
It will be stored away from the CBD until all of the flesh has rotted off the skeleton, as it would “smell something shocking”, the museum says.
Dr Steve Van Dyck, senior curator of vertebrates at the Queensland Museum, said it would be the first complete specimen of a blue whale at the museum.
He said the skull was about four metres long and the weight of the whale, including the flesh, would be close to 100 tonnes.
“Although it is disappointing to have one of these endangered animals found dead, this rare find is a highly significant contribution to the state collection,” Dr Van Dyck said.
“Research associated with both the DNA and the entire skeleton will identify which subspecies of blue whale the specimen represents, either an Antarctic blue whale or a pygmy blue whale.
“With very little known about both subspecies, especially the pygmy blue whale, this find will provide much-needed information and make a valuable contribution to blue whale research and conservation throughout the world.”
Dr Van Dyck said the whale was one of three blue whales to strand itself on Queensland’s coast in the past 30 years.
The blue whale can exceed 30 metres in length and weigh more than 180 tonnes.
Its population in the Southern Hemisphere waters was originally estimated to be 239,000.
Whaling reduced numbers to about 350 individuals but has now climbed to around 1700.