01 missing whale bones
CNN  — 

A British historic hall is imploring locals to return stolen bones of a massive whale skeleton that Herman Melville described in “Moby Dick.”

In honor of the author’s 200th birthday, Yorkshire’s Burton Constable Hall wants to restore the fossilized sperm whale to the “same manner in which Melville first saw it.”

The 60-foot specimen washed up on shore off England’s east coast in 1825 and quickly attracted the attention of residents and researchers alike. A local doctor dissected the whale on location and conducted one of the first studies of the animal.

It was displayed in Yorkshire, England, where it attracted tourists like Melville, who was bewitched by the whale’s size and spectacle and even included its description in his seminal novel.

Curator Philippa Wood holds a piece of the 19th-century whale skeleton at Burton Constable Hall in Yorkshire, England. The musuem is asking for missing pieces of the body back so they can restore it.

But as interest faded, so did upkeep, and the body spent the rest of the century deteriorating in an open field. For much of the mid-1900s, local children treated the skeleton as a jungle gym, playing in its massive bones and taking bits of it as souvenirs.

Burton Constable staff restored what remained of the body in 1995 and displayed it in the museum’s barn with 11 of its vertebrae and most of the left flipper missing, curator Philippa Wood told CNN.

Anyone who thinks they have bone fragments are encouraged to contact the hall to arrange their return.