London: Natural History Museum

Having never visited London, when the opportunity arose for a weekend trip we packed our bags and off we went.

Top of my list of places to visit was of course, the iconic Natural History Museum, a place I have longed to visit for many years and which did not disappoint.

Stepping into the main entrance in Hintze hall is an impressive sight. As if the hall itself weren’t spectacular enough with its ornate staircases and architecture, the huge Blue Whale skeleton descending from the ceiling, welcoming visitors into it’s realm with mouth wide open, is sure to take your breath away.

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Blue whale descending from the ceiling

It’s always difficult to appreciate the size of such vast creatures from documentaries or books alone, and seeing their scale in person brings their sheer size into sharp reality. Just how such massive creatures are even able to move, let alone so gracefully, is bewildering.

Whilst I could enthuse about the museum at great length, the highlight for me was certainly seeing all of the whale specimens up close. Leaving the main hall and it’s dominating blue whale skeleton, there is a room filled from floor to ceiling (quite literally) with replicas and skeletons of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

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A Bowhead Whale skeleton overlooking the replicas of a range of species from the large Orca, or killer whale to the diminutive river dolphin immediately below.

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The skull of one of my favourite species, the Grey Whale, showing it’s bristle like baleen plates hanging from the upper jaw.

Central to this room is another blue whale, this time a lifelike replica in it’s skin, a tiny eye peering out from a vast blue, streamlined body.

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The huge blue whale replica fills the hall

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Another temporary exhibit ‘Whales: Beneath the surface’ consisted of many more fascinating pieces.

The room’s dark, tranquil interior and soundtrack of eerie yet calming whale sounds made you feel as if you were underwater with them, and provided a welcome escape from the noise and chaos of the crowds of visitors in the main galleries outside.

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The upturned skull of a whale with the impressive, elongated jawbone from a Sperm Whale in the foreground.
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The huge skull of the sperm whale, home to the largest brain in the animal kingdom

This ancient skeleton, is the land living ancestor of modern day whales dates back around 50 million years. The creature was carnivorous and hunted for fish and amphibians at the waters edge where it made it’s home.

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Ancient whale!

This remarkable digital is a whale flipper, but still has the 5 digits typical of most vertebrate skeletons.

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Whale fin

A bottlenose dolphin skeleton with short stubby teeth and under bite with gives them their ‘smiley’ appearance.

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Bottlenose dolphin skull

The streamlined skull of a beaked whale, the deepest divers of all the cetecean family. Apologies for my reflection here!

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Beaked whale skull

A porpoise skeleton, smaller and stouter than their dolphin counterparts.

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Porpoise skeleton

The most iconic of the displays here is the ‘Thames Whale’ skeleton. A juvenile, northern bottlenose whale who died after becoming stranded in the Thames river in 2006.

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The iconic Thames whale

A trio of orca skeletons demonstrating various degrees of tooth wear according to their individual diets.

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Orca skulls

I could have happily spent days wandering all the wonderful displays but sadly it was finally time to call it a day and head home. The day was a truly inspiring, memorable and unique one which I will not forget in a hurry!


All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2017 ©
http://www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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