1885 W H Flower of British Museum, Natural History, had written
to David Gray to enquire about the possibility of bringing back
to London the skeleton of a bowhead whale. Gray was unable to
accommodate the request but did provide a carved scale model,
as described in his letter of reply.
23rd August 1885
H Flower Esq.
Director of the Natural History Dept.
British Museum, N.H.
letter of 5th March reached here three days after I had sailed,
and as I only returned last week you will see that it has been
impossible for me to answer sooner.
would be a very difficult and expensive operation to bring home
a complete skeleton of a Greenland Whale. The whale-bone (baleen)
alone would cost at present £2,000 and where we get one
whale there are usually more about and we are obliged to get
rid of the Crang (the carcass left after
flensing) as soon as possible so as to be ready for more.
my voyage I had a model of a full sized Greenland whale made
the dimension of which I took at the time the capture was made,
it's on an inch scale and I think that I have made a very good
job of it. I should like you to see it after I get it painted.
I may have the pleasure of seeing you at a meeting of the British
association in Aberdeen when I can submit my model for your
am dear Sir
Gray captured the whale, on which the model
was based, at 80 degrees North on the 17th of June 1878. The carved
wooden model still hangs among the real whales in the Natural History
Captain Gray made a second painted model,
to the same scale of 1 inch to the foot, in 1885 and donated it
to the Arbuthnot Museum in Peterhead. It was transferred to the
University of Aberdeen Zoology Museum sometime in the 1970s where
it is on public display.