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With a few days in Reykjavik during a stopover en route from the U.S. to England, one item we’d planned on our agenda was seeing the recently-opened Whales of Iceland exhibit. The Reykjavik downtown area is fairly compact, stretching across about 2 miles of coastline, and we chose to make the walk to the far end to get a feel for the local culture along the way, which ended up being well worth it. (Stumbling into their annual bacon festival — a little refreshment along the way seemed very much called for!)

But, back to the whales. The exhibition shows off 23 full-scale models of different species in an indoor facility the size of a large airplane hangar. All your favorite whales are here — the orca (“killer”) whale, sperm whale, the enormous blue whale, and a whole lot more.

Along the way, I learned that all dolphins and porpoises are also members of the whale family. The exhibition included a beluga whale (much more dolphin-like, and smaller that you might think), narwhal (larger than I expected, with some fascinating new discoveries about the purpose for its 8-foot-long tusk), and a porpoise family. The models have all been meticulously formed, textured, and painted to be extremely lifelike in their appearance — no small task, given the endless surface area on some of these creatures!

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Seeing the whales at full size is a rather breathtaking experience. Imagining how much power and energy is at their disposal to move their enormous bodies through the ocean (and rather gracefully at that) is mind-boggling.

Here are some blue whale facts that were new to me:

  • A blue whale tongue weighs as much as an elephant
  • In one gulp, they can swallow a volume of water larger than themselves, the equivalent of 400 people in size
  • Blue whales can communicate with each other from over 1,000 miles away through a special layer of water in the ocean that transmits sound waves extremely far without dissipation
  • Baby blue whales drink 120 gallons of milk per day
  • Whale arteries are large enough for a baby to crawl through them

Truly amazing.

Our family would highly recommend a stop at Whales of Iceland if you are visiting Reykjavic. It is definitely a unique experience and fun for the whole family.