Jurong Island sperm whale carcass (2015)

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The sperm whale's carcass on land at Tuas Marine Transfer Station on 10 July 2015. Photo from The Straits Times.

On 10 July 2015, a sperm whale carcass had been discovered floating in the waters off Jurong Island at roughly 7.45 am. Subsequently, a video of it was posted on Facebook by Jailani Salleh, an oil industry worker at the time.[1] The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (official website) deployed 9 of its staff to salvage the specimen for further investigations. It was the first sperm whale to have been found in Singapore waters. The two previous sightings of sperm whales in Southeast Asia were in Sarawak, Malaysia in 1995 and Phang Nga, Thailand in 2012.[2]

Details of incident[edit | edit source]

On 10 July 2015, at roughly 2.00 pm, 9 staff members from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum were deployed to secure the carcass. They had made prior arrangements with the relevant authorities to enter Jurong Island, which is typically a restricted area. The museum staff also enlisted the help of the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore to tow the whale to Tuas Marine Transfer Station for further analysis.[3] The journey across the West Johor Strait to Tuas Marine Transfer Station took 3 hours, and the whale was estimated to have weighed between 8,000 kg to 10,000 kg.[4] The sperm whale carcass had been found with multiple lacerations and lesions on its posterior, suggesting that it may have been hit by a large boat prior to its’ death. However, the injuries could have been afflicted posthumously as well.[5]

Scientific examination and findings[edit | edit source]

Some of the plastic debris that had been found in the whale's gut. Photo by Marcus Chua.

The whale arrived at Tuas Marine Transfer Station at roughly 9.00 pm on 10 July 2015. Upon its arrival, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum’s mammals and birds curator Marcus Chua and scientific officer Foo Maosheng proceeded to collect tissue samples from the carcass.[6]


On 14 July 2015, the museum identified the sperm whale to be an adult female and that it may have died a few days before its discovery in Singapore waters.[7] The museum updated that they have been dissecting the whale carcass and taking samples for genetic work, so as to identify the cause of its’ death. On 16th July 2015, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum posted a Facebook update on the progress of the examination. It was reported that the team had moved on from "removing large chunks of blubber and organs" to "making smaller and more delicate cuts to expose the spine".[8] The whole examination process lasted 71 days.[9] The bones of the carcass had to be degreased multiple times in which all the oil from the whale's bones were thoroughly removed so that the bones do not start to smell or weaken over time.[10]


On 5 April 2019, a research paper titled "Diet and mitochondrial DNA haplotype of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) found dead off Jurong Island, Singapore" was published in the scientific journal PeerJ.[11] It was reported that other than squid beaks which indicated that the whale's diet consisted of squids, plastic debris had also been found in the whale’s gut.[12]

'Out Of The Water' exhibit (Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum)[edit | edit source]

'Jubi Lee', the Singapore Sperm Whale, hangs in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum for public viewing and education.

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum raised approximately S$1.3 million in donations for the scientific and educational efforts relating to the sperm whale.[13] The whale is affectionately known to the museum staff as Jubi Lee, a wordplay on Jubilee, as the carcass had been found during Singapore's golden jubilee year. According to the museum, half the funds raised had been allocated to the exhibit on matters such as the assembling and mounting of the whale bones.[14] The remaining funds had been channelled into research and education efforts for the marine biodiversity field in Singapore.


Jubi Lee now hangs in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in the mammals section. It was unveiled by the chief executive of Temasek Holdings Ho Ching on 14 March 2016.[15] It is depicted to be in its’ natural diving pose and measures 10.6 metres.


A 155-page book titled ‘A Whale Out Of Water: The Salvage Of Singapore’s Sperm Whale’ had also been published in light of the event. The book detailed the scientific findings from the investigation and the preservation process that had been undertaken after the carcass' discovery. [16]

Original ‘Singapore Whale’[edit | edit source]

Before Jubi Lee, there had been another whale skeleton on display in the old National Museum at Stamford Road from 1907 to 1974. However, the Indian fin whale that hung in the museum had not been found in Singapore waters. The whale skeleton was eventually gifted to Malaysia in 1974.[17]

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Tan, Audrey. "Dead sperm whale found off Jurong Island". The Straits Times. July 11, 2015. Accessed on 6 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/dead-sperm-whale-found-off-jurong-island
  2. Neo, Chai Chin. “Dead sperm whale was adult female: Museum”. Today Online. July 15, 2015. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/sperm-whale-carcass-washed-near-jurong-island-adult-female
  3. Tan, Audrey. Chew, Hui Min. “Reseachers start dissecting sperm whale carcass found off Jurong Island”. The Straits Times. January 19, 2016. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/reseachers-start-dissecting-sperm-whale-carcass-found-off-jurong-island
  4. ‘The Singapore Whale’. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/sg-biodiversity/the-singapore-whale/
  5. Neo, Chai Chin. “Carcass of sperm whale found near Jurong Island”. Today Online. July 11, 2015. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/dead-sperm-whale-found-beached-jurong-island
  6. Lim, Yaohui. “Whale of a find in Singapore”. The Straits Times. July 16, 2015. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/whale-of-a-find-in-singapore
  7. Neo, Chai Chin. “Dead sperm whale was adult female: Museum”. Today Online. July 15, 2015. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/sperm-whale-carcass-washed-near-jurong-island-adult-female
  8. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Facebook. July 16, 2015. Accessed on 6 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/lkcnhm/posts/851629264886357
  9. Tan, Audrey. “$1.3million raised for Singapore whale exhibition”. The Straits Times. February 21, 2016. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/13million-raised-for-singapore-whale-exhibition
  10. Tan, Audrey. “Sperm whale exhibit to be ready by end of February”. The Straits Times. October 30, 2015. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/sperm-whale-exhibit-to-be-ready-by-end-of-february
  11. Marcus A.H. Chua​, David J.W. Lane, Seng Keat Ooi, Serene H.X. Tay, Tsunemi Kubodera. "Diet and mitochondrial DNA haplotype of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) found dead off Jurong Island, Singapore". PeerJ. April 5, 2019. Retrieved from: https://peerj.com/articles/6705/?td=bl
  12. Tan, Clarisse. "Reconstructing a Sperm Whale's Tale". Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. April 9, 2019. Accessed on 6 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/reconstructing-sperm-whales-tale/
  13. Tan, Audrey. “$1.3million raised for Singapore whale exhibition”. The Straits Times. February 21, 2016. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/13million-raised-for-singapore-whale-exhibition
  14. “Singapore's sperm whale on show at Lee Kong Chian museum from Mar 15”. Channel News Asia. March 9, 2016. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-s-sperm-whale-on-show-at-lee-kong-chian-museum-from-ma-8157766
  15. Tan, Audrey. “Get up close to the Singapore whale at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum”. The Straits Times. March 14, 2016. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/get-up-close-to-the-singapore-whale-at-the-lee-kong-chian-natural-history-museum
  16. Tan, Audrey. “A whale of an exhibit”. The Straits Times. March 15, 2016. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/a-whale-of-an-exhibit
  17. Tan, Audrey. “A whale of an exhibit”. The Straits Times. March 15, 2016. Accessed on 6 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/a-whale-of-an-exhibit