Suspended at the center of the 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 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.
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. It's estimated that there are fewer than 500 of these whales alive today. Read her story in this slideshow, and learn more about North Atlantic right whales.