This exhibition draws on one of the largest whale collections in the world – at Te Papa, New Zealand. See enormous skeletons, explore whaling history, build a dolphin and more.
Humans have revered whales, hunted them, and explored their astounding adaptations to life in the sea.
Meet some of the people whose lives have been inextricably linked with whales – from legendary South Pacific whale riders to whale scientists and former whaling families.
Pātaka and the story of Tinirau and the whale
Some patterns on pātaka probably have their origins in the story of the chief Tinirau and his pet whale Tutunui.
Discover the treasures stored in the pātaka taonga.
Māori sometimes remembered significant events and stories about whales by naming islands and landforms after them.
Discover some of the rich whale-riding traditions of Māori culture.
Whaling, then and now
Māori and other South Pacific harvested food and materials from whales that occasionally stranded on their shores.
Whales made their move towards living in the sea about 50 million years ago. They evolved to exploit this watery environment, developing streamlined bodies, remarkable feeding methods, and, for toothed whales, the ability to ‘see’ with sound.
Plunge into the world of whales. Discover how their bodies work and explore their extraordinary lifestyles – from some of the smallest dolphins to the mightiest creature on Earth.
Whales evolved through many changes in climate, land mass, and oceans to become the extraordinary creatures seen today.
Using terms such as ‘whales’, ‘dolphins’, and ‘porpoises’ can be misleading when people want a clear picture of how whales are related. But what exactly is the difference?
The ability to produce and perceive sound is important for whales - to navigate, find food, and communicate.
Discover the difference between baleen whales (Mysticetes) and toothed whales (Odontocetes)...
Watch any whale in motion - such as a dolphin riding a boat's bow wave - and you'll notice that whales are superb swimmers.
Whales are mammals and have many of the features and systems of mammal anatomy.
Sperm whale skeletons
Sperm whales are the most widespread of whale species and two of them have made their way to the exhibition.
Whales mate underwater, while either stationary or swimming. Like most other large animals, whales have a low birth rate.
Whales in the wild
Whales are reknowned for the spectacular behaviour they exhibit at the water's surface. But they spend most of their time below the surface, hidden from view.
Whales strand for various reasons. Illness and old age can play a part, as can extreme weather and the make-up of coastlines. Human-made pollution, mishaps with ships and fishing gear can all result in strandings.
How people respond also varies. For some, stranded whales are gifts from the sea. For others, it is a rare opportunity to study these creatures. And many people want to help save them.
International touring schedule
- 27 May 2017 – 4 September 2017: The Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas, United States
- 22 October 2016 – 9 April 2017: Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
- 19 March 2016 – 5 September 2016: San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego, California, United States
- 3 April 2015 – 29 November 2015: California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, United States
- 10 October 2014 – 16 February 2015: Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, Colorado, United States
- 15 February 2014 – 24 August 2014: Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
- 23 March 2013 – 5 January 2014: American Museum of Natural History, New York, United States
- 19 October 2012 – 27 January 2013: Cleveland Museum of Natural History, United States
- March 2 2012 – September 3 2012: Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada
- May 20 2011 – January 15 2012: Field Museum, Chicago, United States
- November 4 2010 – March 20 2011: Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- June 20 2010 – September 14 2010: Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
- October 31 2009 – May 2 2010: Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
- February 28 2009 – September 7 2009: Exploration Place, Kansas, United States
- October 15 2008 – January 18 2009: National Geographic Museum, Washington DC, United States
Please check venue website for confirmed dates.
Liz Hay, Manager Business & Market Development