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Press Release: Southern Right Whale Sculpture project at Cape Otway Lightstation

Issued: 29 March 2012

The first Southern Right Whale for the season has landed at Cape Otway Lightstation, months ahead of the endangered species’ regular migration.

Although this whale is a healthy specimen at 18 metres long, it’s a landlubber geoglyph created by the Lightstation’s artist-in-residence Peter Day.

To help visitors better understand these huge mammals Peter Day is creating a life-size sculpture at the Lightstation.

Peter’s motif is currently under construction and he’s looking for helpers during the April school holidays.
The Johanna-based environmental artist will be on site from 10am-4pm on April 3 and 4, and is keen for families to give him some hands-on help to embellish the ground-breaking work of art.

“The whale will be sculpted on the ground using Glenaire limestone, Beech Forest sandstone, ceramics and weathered steel,” Peter said.

“The tail will rise above the ground, and the silhouetted fluke will be made in steel with a copper finish giving it a rich patina. When it’s finished people will be able to walk the perimeter of the whale to get an understanding of just how big they really are, and climb over the whale.

“The geoglyph sculpture uses the natural landform to depict the majestic Southern Ocean whale.”

Peter, who has studied migratory whales which visit Australian waters, said the Lighthouse was a great vantage point for whale spotting between May and October.

“They spend the winter months in our sheltered bays nurturing their new-born calves,” he said.

“At birth their calves can be six metres long and they put on 50kg a day from their mother’s milk.

“The adult females can reach 18 metres.

“By late spring the whales turn south for the Antarctic feeding grounds again. On returning to feed on the rich krill, they will have completed a 10,000km round trip.”

Southern Right Whales, which were hunted to the brink of extinction are just one of the whale species which visit the Southern Ocean each year.

They have distinctive features and habits which help whale-watchers them apart from humpbacks, orcas and pilot whales which are also regularly spotted from the Lighthouse.

Peter said they have natural growths on their heads called callosities, a form of roughened skin which appears white because it’s colonised by sea lice. They’re also known for the v-shaped vapour cloud they emit on surfacing, their fluke-up dive and their long arching mouth. Southern Rights often loll on the surface with a giant fin on show.

Peter said his whale, funded by the Lightstation, was an important project which would help families and schools learn more about visiting whales.

Lightstation manager Paul Thompson said the plan was Peter to create a new whale geoglyph each summer over the next three years to represent the species most commonly spied from the lighthouse balcony.

“If it’s a clear day we see whales every day from May to October and it’s always a thrill to see them,” Paul said.
“Sometimes they breach and put on a little show for us.

“Because we never see these giants of the sea out of the water we thought it would be a great educational opportunity for people to learn more about their habits, habitats and size, which is the information Peter is capturing in his art work.”

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