NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – A fabled sea creature that has grown into a pop culture icon will be featured in an exhibit at the University of Oklahoma’s Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
‘Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend’ – a Smithsonian traveling exhibition – will be at the Sam Noble Museum from March 28 through June 14.
Narwhals, affectionately referred to as the “unicorn of the sea,” are medium-sized whales that range from 13 to 18 feet long, and have a long tusk that averages six to eight feet, according to a Sam Noble Museum news release.
“This distinctive spire is not a horn but a long, spiraled tooth that pierces the upper lip,” the news release states.
Narwhals only live in the icy waters of the Arctic Circle, spanning Northern Canada, Greenland and Russia. However, changes to climate and sea ice are a growing threat to their survival, according to the news release.
The exhibition – developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and its Arctic Studies Center, and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service – explores interdisciplinary research on the narwhal conducted by Smithsonian scientists, arctic researchers and Inuit community members.
Scientists and Inuit community members contributed first-hand accounts to the exhibition to reveal how traditional knowledge and experience, combined with scientific research, heighten the understanding of narwhals and the changing global climate.
“The narwhal gives us unique insight into the changing arctic and inspires us to preserve and protect its environment, cultures and creatures,” said William Fitzhugh, curator of the exhibition and director of the Arctic Studies Center.
The exhibit includes a 16-foot, life-size model of a male narwhal, and will teach visitors what the narwhal’s tusk is for, test their tooth knowledge, examine a cast of a skull from a prehistoric narwhal relative and compare differences in how narwhals and their whale relatives adapted to the Arctic environment.
“Panoramic images of landscapes and a soundscape of narwhal vocalizations, ice and water flows and other Arctic wildlife will immerse visitors in the Arctic environment of the narwhal,” the news release states.
The exhibit also gives visitors the chance to discover the narwhal’s connection to medieval European unicorn imagery and legend, as well as the sea creature’s deep ties to Inuit culture and art.
“Audiences will learn what the Inuit have learned and how environmental changes are affecting the way of life for both narwhal and Inuit,” the news release states.