from The New York Times

Museumgoers Wonder: Why Doesn’t the Whale Fall?


From right, Roman Pacheco and his cousins visiting from Ecuador, Nancy and Marco Pacheco, look up at the massive blue whale suspended from the ceiling of the Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

It is one of the biggest attractions — literally — at one of New York City’s most famous destinations: the 94-foot-long blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History. Untold numbers gaze in awe every day at the 21,000-pound creature poised majestically in midair above the Hall of Ocean Life.

They point and take photos. But how many visitors have pondered a basic question: What keeps the hulking whale “afloat”?

“I hadn’t even considered it,” said Ian Mark, 40, visiting recently from Scotland with his daughter, Sarah, 7.

“I didn’t think about it,” said Chris Witkowski, 30, from Jacksonville, Fla. “It is so massive, so that’s a good question.”

Gianina Arana, 27, visiting from Colombia, said the room’s immersive atmosphere played a role. The false skylights are backlit with blue bulbs and have projectors and mirrors behind them to give the impression, when you look up past the whale, that you are looking out of the ocean at the sky. “You feel like you’re part of the ocean, and so of course the whale is there,” she said. “That’s the magic of it.”

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