Work on the Whale Restoration Project in Hermanus will give the life-size Southern Right whale on Market Square a much-needed make-over and it’s making good progress.
This community project, which is a collaboration between local resident René Hartslief and well-known artist Tertius van Dyk, kicked off on 5 January.
The first part of the renovation involved the sanding down of the surface of the whale, which was made of hollow fibreglass and had become weathered and eroded over the years, so that it is smooth and ready to be primed and repainted.
On 19 January, this beloved landmark turned into a ‘flying whale’ when it had to be lifted from its position so that a new 12-by-5 metre foundation could be built. Once completed, the whale was again airlifted by Rigtech Services on Monday, and put back into position on its new ‘throne’, which Tertius will transform with paint effects and other artistic tricks to look like the ocean.
Offering his services free of charge, Tertius says the whale had always been an “eyesore” to him, and that this is his way of giving back to the community of Hermanus.
The damaged fins, which were removed and repaired by Thomas Chowles of Wildcat Inflatables in Bot River, will now be re-attached and then, says Tertius, “the real fun starts”.
The idea is for the whale to look as realistic as possible and literally come to life. Tertius has all sorts of ideas on how to accomplish that, and will be adding details such as the barnacles on its surface and a new set of eyes.
To ensure that all the details are authentic, Tertius, René and Cape Whale Coast Tourism Manager Frieda Lloyd met with whale expert Dr Els Vermeulen (Mammal Research Institute) on site on Thursday.
Tertius says he is very excited with the progress made so far on this project, which he initially estimated would take about two months to complete.
Right at the end a glaze coat will be added to protect the paint from the elements and to make the whole whale shine, turning it into a top attraction for Hermanus.
According to René, who is in charge of fundraising and marketing, the most costly part of the project now lies ahead, which she is hoping will include a coin-operated “state of the art” AUDIO box that plays the three main types of sounds made by whales, namely clicks, whistles and pulsed calls (she has already sourced an engineer to manufacture the music box but now has to arrange the funding for it) and spotlights to light up the whale at night.
The scheduled date of completion is 2 March 2022, when the revamped whale will be inaugurated with a red carpet event.
René, Tertius, Whale Coast Tourism, the Whale Museum and the Overstrand Municipality have expressed their heartfelt thanks to all the individuals and local businesses who have jumped on board and sponsored their services, tools and materials.
Anyone who would like to get involved and make a contribution is welcome to contact René on 083 648 8700 or [email protected].
Here’s to the spirit of community and the Cape’s love and appreciation for these marvellous whales!