Get an up-close look into the lives of humpback whales and the detailed process of rearticulating Humphrey, the Museum’s humpback whale skeleton that hangs in front of the Discovery Zone.

Humpback whales were once on the verge of extinction, but thanks to global conservation efforts their population numbers are slowly increasing. Come and learn about these mysterious and majestic creatures from the inside out.

Journey to the Silver Bank

map showing location of Silver Banks north of the Dominican Republic.
The yellow thumbtack marks the location of the Silver Bank.

Humpback whales travel each year to the Silver Bank, part of the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic, to court, mate and calve.

Watching Whales of the Silver Bank

Operating under a special permit issued by the Dominican Republic, Conscious Breath Adventures takes a limited number of visitors each year to the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals. Practicing low-impact techniques developed over many years, snorkelers are guided during in-water, eye-to-eye interactions with Humpback whales in their natural environment. Documentation from years of research and whale watching adds to our growing understanding of Humpback behavior and population dynamics.

Whales of the Silver Bank

Take a close look at the world of Humpbacks through the lens of Captain Gene Flipse of Conscious Breath Adventures. Flipse has documented whales that gather to court, mate and calve at the Silver Bank, part of the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic.

Humpback Health

Commercial whaling decimated Humpback whale populations in the 1800s and early 1900s. Humpbacks were one of the first species protected under the Endangered Species Conservation Act in 1970, and due to recovery only 5 distinct populations are protected today. The species as a whole is doing relatively well and Atlantic Ocean populations are increasing despite modern human threats, including shipping traffic, fishing hazards and sonic cannons (also called seismic air guns) for energy exploration.

graphic showing where humpback whales can be found around the world
Humpback whales are found in all the world’s oceans and in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Each population has its own traditional feeding and breeding grounds and customary migration routes. Their songs and social sounds can be heard around the world.

Global Whale Conservation

Whales swim the world’s oceans, so their conservation and recovery require action on a global scale. Among the ocean’s top predators, marine mammals play an important role as sentinels of changes in marine ecosystems.

Did you know?

It takes state and federal agencies, fisheries, conservation organizations, tour companies, museums, aquariums and people like you, to create a network of protection! These forces combined inform regulations and help create laws such as the Endangered Species Act, one of the reasons whales are around today.

The Science & Art of Building a Whale

Constructing a whale skeleton gives new life to old bones

It took 7 people about 7 months to piece together the 264 bones of a young male Humpback whale (named Humphrey by popular vote) from the Museum’s Mammalogy Collection. Five missing bones were 3-D printed to complete the skeleton. Nationally, more than 20 people were consulted to accurately reconstruct and interpret the whale.

Exhibit fabricator Mike Adams welded the framework to hang the whale, and was part of the core team that puzzled it together.

large bones in the Mammal Collection fill shelves.
The Museum is a state repository for endangered species; there are over 800 partial and full whale skeletons in the Mammal Collection. Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

Did you know?

The Museum is a state repository for endangered species; there are over 800 partial and full whale skeletons in the Mammal Collection.

Whale of a Year

In 2017, the Museum celebrated its 100th anniversary as the state’s official natural history museum. Humphrey the Humpback whale was a centerpiece of the celebration and is now hanging just outside the Discovery Zone exhibit!

Humpback Whale Skeleton hangs at the entrance of the Florida Museum of Natural History's Discovery Zone exhibit
Humpback Whale Skeleton (Megaptera novaeangliae)
Found, February, 1990, New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

About the Art

Three photos of a woman molding a humpback whale from clay. In two of the photos young children watch her work.
Ariel molding the clay during a demonstration at the Museum’s Drink with the Extinct event. Photos by Jason Bourque

Ariel Bowman was inspired to sculpt a scale model of Humphrey the Humpback whale when she saw the skeleton, to capture the beauty of the living whale.

She creates ceramic sculptures that reconnect viewers with their sense of wonder for natural history. She is fascinated by animals that evolved with distinct features, and is inspired by diorama displays. Ariel received her MFA in ceramics from the University of Florida in 2018.


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