Britain's Natural History Museum unveils huge whale skeleton

LONDON — Britain's Natural History Museum in London suspended a gigantic skeleton of a blue whale in its main entrance Thursday, drawing attention to vanishing species in an environment under strain.

Scientists named the 25.2-meter (82-foot) whale Hope,' recognizing the role of science in safeguarding the environment. The immense creature seems to fly over the atrium and its visitors — a visible reminder of nature's power.

"It is our hope for the future that we can use good science and good evidence to make the right kind of decisions about these big environmental issues," said Michael Dixon, the museum's director.

The whale replaced the much-loved Dippy, a dinosaur cast in plaster that graced the entryway for decades. Although the replica of a diplodocus attained the status of an icon, the museum believed a real specimen better suited their mission to study and conserve the planet.

Dippy's fans are not satisfied. Ruaridh Arrow, who signed a petition to save Dippy, is concerned the change will "expel the magic."

"The first thing you want to see is the dinosaur," he said of the museum. "This space seems empty....It looks like a weird bird."

The whale skeleton comes from a creature that died in 1891 off the coast of Ireland. The museum bought the specimen and has had displayed it in the mammal section since 1934.

But the Mammal Hall was unable to display Hope in all her glory, suspending it over another whale that tended to get more attention because it was at eye level.

Now visitors can't help but look up.

"I think it's good because you get a chance to see something different and it shows we still have spectacular things on this planet," museum goer Val Preston said.

This is not to say that Dippy is going quietly.

The dinosaur will begin a tour of eight locations in the U.K. over the next 2 1/2 years.

The public will be able to see Hope in her new location starting Friday. A staff viewing went well but Dixon said the real test will be how the public reacts.

"If our staff are anything to go by ... we're on to a winner," Dixon said.

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