SALT LAKE CITY — Hanging in the Rio Gallery is a black-and-white photo, supposedly from the 1870s, showing a half-underwater shot of an Australian whale. Just glancing at it, it’s hard to remember that underwater photography wasn’t possible 160 years ago. And then there’s the location. Is that… the Great Salt Lake? Plus, two photographs framed next to it show custom-built train cars that apparently shipped the whales from San Francisco to Utah.

Where did this crazy story start? And are these pictures real?

For the first question, let’s turn to an article from the June 24, 1890 edition of the Daily Enquirer, a now-defunct Provo newspaper, which reported on the 15-year anniversary of two Australian whales being transported from the Pacific coast to Utah and deposited in the Great Salt Lake.

The article describes how, in 1875, a British scientist named James Wickham hypothesized that whales could live in the salt water of the Great Salt Lake and undertook the responsibility of bearing the project out. According to the article, these whales were each 35 feet long and were shipped to Utah via custom rail cars built to hold them as well as 50 tanks of sea water.

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Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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