The finback whale skeleton has been a beloved specimen for many years. The skeleton has been fully restored to reflect new knowledge of how whales appear underwater.
This large skeleton was acquired by the Public Museum in 1905 from the estate of Dr. Jacob W. Velie of St. Joseph, Michigan. Velie acquired it on a trip to Florida's Gulf Coast, where the whale had washed ashore.
Once measuring about 75 feet in length, the fin or finback whale was a mature adult weighing between 80 and 90 tons. Shaped for speed and endurance, this large baleen mammal is native to the deeper waters of the world's oceans. The semi-flat v-shared head, tapering flippers, and broad powerful flukes aided in propelling it through the water so swiftly that few predators could overtake it. This type of whale is a member of the sub-order Mysticeti, which means "mustached whales." The large mouths incorporate many rows of baleen plates, a horn-like substance fringed with tiny bristles. The baleen plates sift out tiny marine animals out of gulped seawater. Known as zoo plankton, these form the whale's diet. This specimen has been restored to reflect new knowledge how how whales appear underwater. Cartilage and non-bone material such as the tail flukes have been reproduced here in white foam and case acrylic.
Virtual Science Scavenger Hunt (April 2020) Use this scavenger hunt to explore artifacts and specimens in the GRPM’s digital Collections. Investigate a variety of science and technology-based objects, from the Museum’s most recognizable pieces to the ones tucked away in the Archives.
Jacob W. Velie Jacob W. Velie was born in Amsterdam, New York on Februaru 9, 1829, the oldest of the 10 children. He was raised and educated at Hammonsport, New York and graduated from the Geneva Medical College. He left Hammondsport and his medical practice in 1854 to move to Rock Island, Illinois, where he worked as a dentist for 11 years. He then moved to Bath, New York, and ran a drug store. He moved to Chicago in 1870 to teach at the Academy of Science, and then moved to St. Jospeh, Michigan in 1892. He was interested in natural history as a boy, and finally gave up his profession to devote himself to it. Dr. Velie was the owner of a very large library on the subject and since he came to St. Jospeh his time was entirely devoted to natural history, as his workshop indicates to any who visit the place.
Velie married Mrs. Adelia Noble at Bath, New York on September 6, 1854. She died in 1884. They had no children. Dr. Velie had wintered in Florida for several years.
- from the St. Jospeh Evening Herald, October 22, 1908