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Press Release: The Wonder of Whales

Issued: 7 October 2012

CAPE Otway Lightstation is making a splash on Saturday, October 13, for The Wonder of Whales with the launch of two life-sized sculptures of Southern Right Whales.

At the celebration of whale stories and marine mammal conservation an 18 metre long geoglyph, created by artist-in-residence Peter Day, will be unveiled.

Apollo Bay sculptor Brad West’s four metre long baby Southern Right Whale, carved from century old cypress, will also be revealed.

A Sea Shepherd eco-warrior and crewmen on the vessel Steve Irwin will talk about the foundation’s work to protect whales and raise public awareness.

The Wonder of Whales programme includes live entertainment, whale activities for children, and readings from influential books about whales.

Lightstation visitors will also be invited to take part in a dynamic, whale-shaped human sculpture, to be snapped by an airborne photographer.

Paul Thompson, the Lightstation manager, who previously worked with the British Antarctic Survey, will also speak about his up-close encounter with a pod of Killer Whales near the South Pole.

Southern Right Whales and Humpbacks were the two species most commonly seen from the Lightstation between May and October, Mr Thompson said.

The Lightstation was committed to improving education about whales and the need to preserve their habitats, he added.

“We hope to add another whale sculpture each summer over the next few years, in celebration of these mysterious mammals, which are such a thrilling sight from the lighthouse balcony. The site will include whale interpretation and education,” Mr Thompson said.

“We’ve got lots of fun planned for The Wonder of Whales day, with activity sheets for children, and the chance to be photographed by our photographer flying with 12 Apostles Helicopters.

“The Wonder of Whales is a great opportunity for people to meet the artists and to hear from the Sea Shepherd crew before they head off for their 2012-13 Antarctic Anti-Whaling Campaign Operation Zero Tolerance.”

Naturalist and artist, Peter Day, who lives at Johanna, has been fascinated by whales for decades, and recently spent three winters in north western Australia working on a humpback whale research project.

Mr Day, who has used local limestone, sandstone, ceramics and weathered steel in the execution of an adult female Southern Right is thrilled with visitors’ response to his sculpture.

“The most common comment is they had no idea how big they are, and this whale gives them a really great sense of the scale,” he said.

“As always, my hope is to connect people to the wonder of whales – they’re just such fascinating and amazing creatures. The more I learn about them them the more I realise they’re like humans.”

Brad West, whose sculptures are in public and private collections across Victoria, said he began work on the elbow of a cypress from the Apollo Bay foreshore and would finish the work with hand chisels.

“I was fascinated that the cypress was 100 years old, which is the same age that whales can live to, and the connection that it is being given new life or re-birthed and will look out over the water on their migratory path,” Mr West said.

“This species have been migrating through these waters in the southern oceans for thousands of years and they also have a spiritual connection with Indigenous people which is celebrated through song,” said Mr West, who also works as an Indigenous interpreter and cultural guide at the Lightstation’s Aboriginal Heritage Trail.

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