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A whale of a question

Posted: May 27, 2012 - 12:07am

The Art and Culture section of the Juneau Empire on Thursday carried an article on the proposed Hump-Back whale sculpture that proponents hope to erect at some spot on the city’s waterfront. A large and expensive endeavor that was apparently the dream of our past Mayor, Bill Overstreet. The artist’s model represents an anatomically true, half-whale to be cast in bronze. A huge, whale’s-blow-hole-fountain exploding out of a seemingly shallow reflecting pool filled with freshwater. It has been likened to Juneau having its own Seattle Space Needle or a New York City Wall Street bronze-bull right down on the wharf. Its supporters believe it will provide additional fame for the capital city. But I’m not too sure how appropriate that analogy actually is — given recent and on going Wall Street capitalist woes. Anyway, this whale-of-a-fountain won’t come very cheap — for it sports an estimated $ 2.1 million price tag, half of which must come from city coffers.

The promoters also suggest the city a reality-type whale-watching industry has and will continue to grow exponentially pumping multi-millions of future dollars into our local economy. This, it would seem, ties in beautifully with a proposed half-whale sculpture icon — except that recent biological information suggests, quote; “In the short term a boat interacting with whales can disrupt their activities, like stopping them foraging for food or resting,” says David Lusseau, from the Institute of Biological and Environmental Science at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

And also, “In the long term this can have an impact of the whales’ vital rates. Females can even stop producing enough milk for their calves, which can decrease the survival rate of their young. Ultimately the viability of a pod can be threatened.” (to read entire article please open link:

So finally, I find myself asking how the image of a 40-ton behemoth of the deep can rise up from the ashes of old gold-town timbers while still being relevant?

Alan R. Munro


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