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The votes are in: Memorial University's blue whale's name is Altum

Campus and Community

By Memorial University

Over the past year and a half, Memorial University asked the public for suggestions to name our magnificent blue whale.

A blue whale skeleton is suspended in an atrium of a large building. The sun shines through the bones near the skull.
There were more than 5,000 votes collected to choose the blue whale’s name.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The incredible skeleton was suspended in the Core Science Facility atrium in August 2021, but it remained nameless.

Happily, people had opinions: we received close to 250 ideas.

The list was then narrowed down to four possibilities: Altum, Apitakwitk, Aurora and Rocky.

More than 5,000 votes

As part of the registration form to attend the second annual Whale of a Day on Oct. 28, attendees were asked to vote for one of the four.

Votes were also collected at the event and we “cast the net” far and wide by promoting the top four name choices to Memorial students, faculty, staff, retirees, alumni, donors, friends and the communities we serve.

We received 5,128 votes and now we have a winner!

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, during a live-stream event that involved schoolchildren in K-6 classrooms around the province, our blue whale was officially named Altum. The event was facilitated by Let’s Talk Science.

Vote summary

  1. Altum (pronounced al-tum): Latin for “deep.” It comes from Memorial’s motto: provehito in altum, which means “launch forth into the deep.” Votes: 1,838
  2. Apitakwitk (pronounced ah-bah-dah-gwit-kh): A Mi’kmaw word that means “the waves are returning to where they came from.” Votes: 820
  3. Aurora (pronounced ah-roar-ah): The name of the Roman goddess of the dawn. It also refers to the Earth’s natural light show, the aurora borealis or northern lights. Votes: 954
  4. Rocky: This name refers to Rocky Harbour, the town on the west coast of Newfoundland where our whale washed ashore. Votes: 1,561
Dr. Paul Snelgrove is the Associate Scientific Director of OFI.
Dr. Paul Snelgrove
Photo: Chris Hammond

Dr. Paul Snelgrove submitted the winning name, Altum. Dr. Snelgrove is a Memorial University alumnus (B.Sc.(Hons)’84), a member of the Faculty of Science and the associate scientific director for the Ocean Frontier Institute.

“The majesty of this blue whale serves as a superb reminder of the predominant role of the ocean in Newfoundland and Labrador and why we’re here. The Memorial University motto captures our mission of a deeper understanding of the North Atlantic in which this spectacular animal lived out its life. Thus, Altum seems a most appropriate name.”

All things Altum

Be sure to come meet Altum in person by visiting the St. John’s campus and checking out the new interpretive exhibit, A Blue Whale’s Tale! Everyone is welcome.

Don’t forget we have some great merchandise to celebrate our wonderful whale, too.

T-shirts, stickers, travel mugs and tattoos can all be found at the university bookstore in the University Centre, UC-2006.

So get your T-shirt and tell the world to come see our blue whale!


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