Impressive whale skeleton installation to be displayed at Sheffield museum post lockdown

A Sheffield biologist has donated an impressive four-metre long whale skeleton, that had previously been displayed in iconic areas across the city, to a museum.

Friday, 6th November 2020, 10:21 am

Dave Clay, 65, from Crookes, gave the carcass of a long-finned pilot whale to Weston Park Museum to put on display when the premises can reopen after the second lockdown is scheduled to be lifted on December 2.

The biology lecturer who found the four-metre long skeleton buried in the sand on a beach on the island of South Uist in Scotland two years ago, has previously hung the whale bones from Blonk Street bridge in the city centre, Endcliffe Park and Stanage Edge in recent months.

Dave, who completely rebuilt the carcass from head to tail, was motivated to hold installations of the skeleton across Sheffield during lockdown, because of his passion for biology.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Biologist Dave Clay has donated the whale skeleton to Weston Park Museum.

“I love biology especially evolution and adaptation”, he said.

"The anatomy of the whale is just one example of how it draws us in and helps, with a little biological insight, illustrate the fact that we are related to all living things.

"I mean that literally.

"None of us would be here if our parents didn’t have children and so it was for them and all of their ancestors.

The four-metre long skeleton was previously displayed in Meersbrook Park for a limited period.

“Of course, if we went back far enough, we would see in our branch of life’s tree, that our ancestors looked quite different from Homo sapiens.

"As we marched backwards through time, we would also see other branches of life, including that of the whale's, joining with our own and ultimately converging in a shared ancestor.

“Now that’s something to smile about when you’re dropping off to sleep.”

The 65-year-old biologist, who used to teach at Sheffield College, hopes to return to the profession when the current coronavirus restrictions allow, by putting on classes about evolution and adaptation to ‘anyone with a sense of wonder’.

The whale bones were hung from a tree in Endcliffe Park on Sunday, October 25.

Dave added: “The pilot whale skeleton installations were done simply to share something fabulous.

"It’s pretty special to see people with a smile and an expression of wonder and it’s great to hear children shout, ‘It’s a dinosaur!’“There is one hidden agenda, and that is to stimulate a wonder in biological science.

"It’s fabulous!”

While Weston Park Museum remains closed under the latest lockdown measures, the building aims to display the new installation when restrictions are set to be lifted next month.

The 65-year-old biologist pictured with the four-metre long carcass.

Curator of natural science at Museums Sheffield Alistair McLean commented: “We’re really grateful to Dave Clay for so generously donating this remarkable specimen to the museums.

"The huge array of wildlife represented in the city’s natural science collection allows to us tell stories that span evolution and how animals adapt to their environment, through to extinction and the impact of human action on habitats and ecosystems.

"This specimen is all the more poignant because of its connection with the pandemic and lockdown.

"It will make a fantastic addition to the displays at Weston Park Museum and we can’t wait to share it with visitors here once the museum reopens.”

Dave has also installed the skeleton in Stanage Edge in the Peak District.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.