Orcas in churches
On 30 March 1545 a male Orca about 8.85 metres long stranded in the Bay of Greifswald. This case is of particular importance, because Conrad Gessner in 1558 made a report about this whale and thus provided the first scientific description of an Orca. The event was considered so important that bones of the animal were kept in the St Mary's Church in Greifswald and an image of this whale was also put up there. This outline drawing survived in the St Mary's Church in Greifswald and was uncovered and restored in 1990.
In 1851, the carcass of another Orca was found at New Mukran on the island of Rügen. At this time, such finds excited great attention, however, appropriate scientific documentation was not the norm as it is now. Rather, fishermen or residents appropriated the skeletal bones as attractive show-pieces. Thus the greater part of the Orca initially stayed with an innkeeper in Sagard. Only the shoulder blades, ribs and a tooth made it to the former Zoological Museum at Greifswald. It was only 11 years later that the whale appeared complete again. However, the records in the receipt catalogues in the Greifswald Museum confused the whole process: this means that the famous Orca parts of 1851 were recorded as being received in 1862. In 1968, the MEERESMUSEUM accepted an almost complete Orca skeleton from the Zoological Museum at the University of Greifswald in addition to the Fin whale hanging in the chancel.
The Orca skull was displayed in the choir of St. Catherine's Hall, while the skeleton is located in the storehouse of the Oceanographic Museum.