56 ft fin whale washed ashore on Coll 2004

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In 2004 a 56 ft fin whale washed ashore on Coll

Here are a couple of shots from the Coll Pier. A massive Fin Whale jawbone Arch!

You’ll need to scroll down to see the other one.

Whale jaw bones honor a time when the leviathan bones were a sign that whalers survived the hunt. Fortunately time has moved on since then. The remarkable story of Collette the Whale is probably now old enough to start becoming a thing of legend. The massive whale was washed ashore on Coll in early 2004. There is a fair bit of info online, so I have compiled some newspaper clippings for you to read.

Will the truth ever be known?

Whale Arch of Coll
Whale Arch of Coll

Will the truth ever be known 😉



The Gaurdian.

There are few residents on the Hebridean island of Coll who would be surprised if an unusual landmark appeared in their midst in a year or so. It might be an archway, 12ft high and crafted from the jawbones of a giant whale.

And it would solve a mystery that has been baffling zoologists from the National Museum of Scotland who are trying to piece together the entire skeleton of a 56 ft fin whale that washed up on Coll last month.

Researchers from the museum arrived on the island three weeks ago to retrieve the carcass and ship it to the mainland, where they planned to display it. However, the whale’s jawbones, measuring approximately 12ft and weighing around 550lb, were missing.

“At the moment we are stuck with the world’s largest chinless wonder,” said Andrew Kitchener, curator of birds and mammals at NMS. “We don’t have a complete fin whale skeleton, so finding these jaw bones would help fill a massive gap in our collection.”

Paul Brooker of the Isle of Coll Hotel said locals had hoped to keep the skeleton on the island. For the time being, he is just grateful the carcass has been moved. “It was starting to smell a bit,” he said.



The Herald.

Defiant Islanders take it on the chin over the one that got away. Talk of preventing the departure of Coll’s prize catch came to nothing, writes Rebecca McQuillan.

THEY were Coll’s equivalent of the Stone of Destiny, but after a month hidden in a sand dune, the fate of the now-famous whale jawbones was to be trussed up with rope and shipped off to a storeroom in Edinburgh.

Talk of a blockade when the bones were removed from Coll yesterday came to nothing, but there was great disappointment. Among those gathered on the quayside was the island’s most famous resident, the former Scotland rugby captain, Rob Wainwright, who was involved in the effort to save them, along with farmers, a bar worker and the assistant director of a major charity based on the island.

Now, the group hopes that the National Museum of Scotland, which has claimed the bones along with the rest of the skeleton, will arrange for a plaster cast to be made for the island.

The departure of the bones, covered in blue plastic and sticking out of the back of a white museum van, brought to an end an extraordinary game of hide-and-seek which began when a 56ft fin whale washed up in Feall Bay in February.

It was designated as Crown property and gifted to the National Museum of Scotland, which sent a team to take the skeleton back for the museum’s collection. Before they could do so, however, the jawbones disappeared, removed by a group of islanders who wanted to erect a whale arch in front of the local church as a tourist attraction and a backdrop for weddings and baptisms.

Earlier this week, the museum made an appeal to the media for the bones to be returned. However, their whereabouts remained a mystery until two days ago, when they were handed over by the farmer on whose land they were hidden. He had apparently been approached by the island’s special constable.

The group who removed the bones said yesterday they felt they should have remained on Coll.

Nic Smith, 44, who works in the bar in the Isle of Coll Hotel and was there when they were removed, said: ”I don’t see why they get to have them. Why is their shed a good home?” She was also critical of the museum’s failure to discuss the fate of the jawbones with them. ”The first we knew about them wanting them back was when it hit the news. If the museum had come and put a case to us, we would have sat down and talked to them.”

She and her husband Olvin, 40, who come originally from Northamptonshire, said they had been prompted to act after hearing a talk by the Whale and Dolphin Trust. ”They said if you mount the jaws in the ground they look fantastic. There were billions of pictures of whale arches on the internet. So we took them.”

Using kitchen and butcher’s knives, and a chainsaw, Olvin and three other islanders spent two hours removing the bones, including cutting through a socket of tendons six inches thick. A tractor was used to pull the bones away.

The bones were removed first to a farm and then to sand dunes in Struan on the east of the island, the land of John Allan Macrae, 21, a farmer, who had not been involved in the removal.


Mr Macrae said he surprised Mr Wainwright and another man on his land on Tuesday night. They were apparently concerned that the bones ought to be moved again and were in a tractor without lights. He told them to leave and the bones were then taken away to be held in the shed in Arinagour until they could be taken away by the museum.

Asked about the incident, Mr Wainwright, who has a farm on the island, said with a smile: ”I’ll leave my lights on next time.”

He added that the bones were taken in good faith: ”I think there’s a groundswell of opinion to keep the whalebones on the island where they can be a valuable tourist asset. Mull has its sea eagles and now the whale is synonymous with Coll.”


John Fraser, the assistant director of the Coll-based charity Project Trust and the island’s chief fireman, admitted being involved. He said he was still doubtful any law had been broken.

Not all the islanders were pleased by the antics of the conspirators. One local man said: ”There’s not a local person involved. These incomers have brought nothing but trouble to this island.”

However, Mr Wainwright brushed aside the complaint. ”We don’t have many locals now, we’re all incomers. For a divided community we’re pretty together,” he said.

Strathclyde Police said yesterday that as far as they were concerned the matter was now closed. There had been no official police involvement and no official complaint had been received.


A spokeswoman for the National Museum of Scotland said the museum was delighted the jawbones had been found. She added: ”We are happy to talk to the islanders about possibilities, including the cast, that would be mutually beneficial.”


The islanders had made plans for the jaw bones. Sheila McKinnon, who owns an Eriskay pony stud on the island, said: ”It was going to be a celebration. Weddings, christenings and funerals are so important on the island and to have the arch in front of the church would have been beautiful.

”It would have brought history up to date, like a twenty-first century Stonehenge. We wanted the whale to have dignity. It looked so humiliated lying there just abandoned on the beach. People have been very upset that it is being unceremoniously taken away.”


It also provided a hot topic of conversation on the beautiful, but at times bleak, island, which has only 160 people, two shops and a hotel.

Mrs Smith said: ”The winter can be a long, dead time and we make jokes about reading supermarket receipts in the bar. After this, people had something to talk about.”

Mr Wainwright said: ”We thought it was going to end up in a landfill site so the jaws were removed in quite an effort and they were removed in good faith. I smile about it but I think it is something the island could have benefited from.”



Standing proud at the gateway
Standing proud at the gateway to the Isles


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