It’s hard to truly comprehend the colossal size of the world’s largest mammal until you’re standing right next to its massive jaw bone, such as the one standing vertically creating an archway on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog.
After the Second World War, there was a severe shortage of resources in the Netherlands, and a particular need for oils and fats. As a result, the Dutch Society of Whaling was founded, and for years following, whaling was a huge part of life on the island.
The harvesting of whale oil (which is also known as train oil, coming from the Dutch word “traan” meaning “tear” or “drop”), which is obtained from the animal’s blubber, solved the need for oils and fats in the community, and ultimately saved lives. The practice of whaling was continued in Schiermonnikoog even after resources were no longer in shortage, as by then it was seen as a community tradition.
In 1950, Captain Klaas Visser returned to the island of Schiermonnikoog with a 104-foot-long blue whale from southern Iceland, causing major commotion and excitement. A year later, the jaw of the enormous mammal was placed in the center of the town for everyone to admire.
The jawbone no longer stands in the center of town, but it does still have a home in the community. Today, the gigantic jawbone serves as an entrance into the Graaf Bernstorff Hotel, where hotel guests and Schiermonnikoog locals alike can stop, look up, and feel awed by nature’s magic.