Iconic skeleton set for a new adventure

Iconic skeleton set for a new adventure

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Cetacea Contracting president and owner Mike deRoos, CADDS Group managing director Darren Clark and CADDS Group workshop manager and director Chris Edwards. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen.

An iconic blue whale skeleton is currently resting on plush pet beds, sitting in pieces at a warehouse in Armadale, patiently awaiting its new home at a Perth museum. 

The 24-metre long blue whale was found washed ashore in Vasse in the south west of Western Australia in the late 1890s and has been a crowd favourite at many exhibitions ever since, more recently at the Francis Street Museum in Northbridge more than 15 years ago. 

However, the crowd-favourite skeleton will soon receive a new lease on life thanks to the efforts of a local design and consultancy group and the expertise of a Canadian marine biologist. 

CADDS Group in Armadale and Cetacea Contracting president and owner Mike deRoos have joined forces to design and fabricate a steel frame for the skeleton, which will then be used to hang it from the ceiling in spectacular fashion at the New Museum for WA. 

The skeleton will appear like it is swimming, allowing visitors to come eye to eye with one of the biggest animals that has ever lived. 

CADDS Group managing director Darren Clark said this was the first marine animal the company had ever worked on and will likely be the only one. 

“It is a very different job for us, obviously we work more in engineering and design in the mining industry, so this is definitely a great project for us to give something back to the community,” he said. 

“The fabrication side of the project will take about three months, but we have been working on the design for quite some time. 

“All up the project will take about 12 months from start to finish.” 

Man looking at the Blue Whale skeleton in the 1950s. Photograph – WA Museum.

Western Australian Museum chief executive Alec Coles said the state has got millions of exhibits to choose from, but the one display that didn’t have to justify its place in the new museum was the blue whale skeleton.

“One of the challenges we face is how do you display something like this in a new and exciting way?” he said.

“Previously it would have just sat on display, but we are hanging it from the space so you will be able to walk underneath it. 

“We will be able to do other bits and pieces electronically and with virtual reality to put flesh on the bones as it were.” 

Cetacea Contracting president and owner Mike deRoos said he and his family are staying in Perth until December to see through the end of the project. 

“We have done about 20 whale skeletons previously and they are all different,” he said. 

“Probably the biggest challenges for this one are the age of the bones and the fact that we aren’t doing any modification, we are not drilling any holes or putting any fasteners into the bones, everything is being supported externally. 

“The armature is extra complex, which means there is a lot more pieces of metal to shape and bend.” 

The skeleton will be on display in the heritage-listed Hackett Hall building of the New Museum for WA, which is expected to open in late 2020.