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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 21:26 GMT 22:26 UK
Whale bones hidden by islanders
Stranded whale - picture by Sarah Money
The whale was washed up on Coll in February
Islanders have admitted hiding the jawbones of a 56ft whale which was washed ashore on Coll.

The National Museums of Scotland (NMS) launched an appeal for the missing mandibles after the incomplete skeleton was moved to Edinburgh last month.

The bones were removed by locals who thought they should stay in the Inner Hebrides as a permanent reminder.

However, one islander alerted a local policeman to their whereabouts and the bones are set to rejoin the skeleton.

It is understood that some on the island are incensed by such "duplicity".

The fin whale was found on the beach at Coll at the beginning of February.

'Massive gap'

The blubber and soft tissue was removed from the skeleton, which was transported by truck and ferry to NMS research facilities in Edinburgh three weeks ago.

However, it emerged that the 12ft long jawbones - which weigh about 250kg - had gone missing.

Zoologists made an appeal for help on Monday, saying that a complete fin whale skeleton would fill a "massive gap" in the NMS collection.

It would have been an asset to the island
Nic Smith
Andrew Kitchener, curator of birds and mammals, said he was delighted that the jawbones had now been found.

"It is the only fin whale skeleton in our collection," he said.

"It will be available for researchers to use. We normally have a series of guided tours, so they are not just going to go out of sight forever."

However, Nic Smith is one of the islanders who believes the bones should have remained on Coll.

She said: "You can mount them in the ground and then they really look stunning. It would have been an asset to the island.

"We are quite upset at the way it has happened.

'Permanent reminder'

"If the museum is going to put them on display it would be completely different, but they are going to do their research then they are going to sit in a box."

She said an arch would have acted as a "permanent reminder" that the whale had been on the island.

"It seems that everything disappears and we have got nothing to remember the whale," she added.

The fin whale is second only in size to the blue whale, the biggest mammal on earth.

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