Bones of a beached giant make final journey

A 13-metre long humpback whale skeleton has spent the past year buried in sand on a section of Victorian coastline, awaiting the right time for transfer to Museum Victoria's extensive collection.

The adolescent male, which would have weighed about 30 tonnes, was barely alive when it washed up last September and it died soon after beaching itself on Gippsland's Ninety Mile Beach between Woodside and Seaspray.

While humpback whales are not a rare species, it has remained a missing piece of the Museum's collection because it's unusual for a suitable specimen to arrive undamaged at an accessible location.

It took two days last year to strip the carcass back to a skeleton and break it up into manageable sections. Museum staff were able to remove 90 per cent of the meat and blubber. Internal organs were also removed and tissue and barnacle samples taken for the museum's molecular laboratory.

However there's only so much that can be removed manually. The rest was left to nature with researchers burying the bones in sand so bacteria could get to work.

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