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Phoenix, a life-size model of a North Atlantic right whale, at the center of the new Sant Ocean Hall, 2008. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution.
Phoenix, a life-size model of a North Atlantic right whale, at the center of the new Sant Ocean Hall, 2008. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution.
An exhibits preparatory applies paint to the model of Phoenix, prior to the opening of the Sant Ocean Hall, 2008. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution.
An exhibits preparator applies paint to the model of Phoenix, prior to the opening of the Sant Ocean Hall, 2008. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution.

Suspended at the center of the new Sant Ocean Hall is a life-size model of a North Atlantic right whale named Phoenix. The result of four years of work, and collaboration between exhibit fabricators, whale biologists, sculptors, painters, engineers, and many others, this exhibit is unique and exciting in that it represents a live animal. Phoenix has been tracked in her Atlantic Ocean environment by marine biologists at the New England Aquarium in Boston, ever since her birth off the coast of Georgia in 1987. Phoenix was chosen because so much is known about her and her family (her mother's name is Stumpy). She is the mother of three calves and became a grandmother in 2007.

The first sighting of Phoenix, with her mother Stumpy, January 14, 1987, off the coast of Georgia. Photograph by Scott Mercer; image courtesy of New England Aquarium.
The first sighting of Phoenix, with her mother Stumpy, January 14, 1987, off the coast of Georgia. Photograph by Scott Mercer; image courtesy of New England Aquarium.

She got her name Phoenix from her ability to rise again, like the mythical bird, after a life-threatening entanglement with fishing gear in 1997. She still bears a scar below her right lip from that encounter, which you can see on the model and which scientists use to help identify her in the waters of the Atlantic.

Although it has been illegal to hunt right whales since 1935, they remain endangered. There were fewer than 450 of them in 2006. Scientists continue to track Phoenix and other right whales to learn more about them and to continue efforts to protect their habitat and ensure their survival.

To read more about Phoenix, and to see a video of her taken from a plane, take a look at “A Tale of a Whale” at the Ocean Portal!

The world’s first full cast of a whale, part of the Smithsonian’s display at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904. Image courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History.
The world’s first full cast of a whale, part of the Smithsonian’s display at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904. Image courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History.

Phoenix is part of a long tradition of exhibiting whales at the Smithsonian. In 1903, the Museum created the first full-cast of a whale ever displayed.

To read more about whales at the Smithsonian, take a look at “A Century of Whales at the Smithsonian Institution.”

Phoenix, a life-size model of a North Atlantic right whale, at the center of the new Sant Ocean Hall, 2008. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution.
Phoenix, a life-size model of a North Atlantic right whale, at the center of the new Sant Ocean Hall, 2008. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution.

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