Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Scale of the Whale

Each year off the coast of southwest Victoria, a natural event known as the Bonney Upwelling occurs in which changes in wind and ocean currents draw in a feast of krill attracted by their primary food source, phytoplankton. In turn, the tiny krill attract the magnificent and mammoth blue whale, and, if you are lucky enough, you can catch a glimpse as they feed tens-of-kilometers off-shore.

It is fair to say that a great many of us who live comfortably on dry land rarely experience the opportunity to see the awesome sight of a blue whale, let alone up close - however, if you happen to be wandering around Launceston during the Junction Arts Festival, I guarantee that will change.

First created as part of the Portland Upwelling Festival in 2009, Mark Cuthbertson’s inflatable whale has now migrated to Launceston to the delight of anyone who should encounter her. I must admit, this full-sized whale is hard to miss; at 27 meters in length, Cuthbertson’s whale appears to swim on the spot as it sits in Launceston's Prince’s Square. The whale’s tail, towering high above, rises and falls as if propelling itself through an invisible ocean, its eye curiously peering back at those looking up at it. Crafted from parachute material and beautifully finished, the darkened flesh subtly draws breath as the discrete air-pump nearby keeps the scale of this majestic creature true.

Not only existing as a work of art, a project of this execution and accuracy simply begs to attract the curious of all ages. As I sat nearby and observed, children were playfully interacting with the blue whale while the Mums and Dads dutifully attempted to keep at least one eye on their children, while the other inevitably scanned the length, breadth and height of the whale - no doubt lost in their own awe of the fact that the average blue whale really is that big.

The easily transportable properties of the inflatable whale (I was assured that it fits inside a modest bag) will see it travel to four locations around the city during the Junction Festival, all of which, I am sure will add new points of reference in which to appreciate the size and beauty of this magnificent creature.

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