In an iconic visual statement that has shaped the cultural landscape of Brisbane for 20 years, we unpack the life cycle of the pod of Humpback Whales that hang from the breezeway of the Queensland Museum.
The 1980s saw the creative build of the pod as museum employees Todd Knight, Terry Tebble, Karen Mickan and Jan Williams chipped away at the spectacular showpiece, from the sheds behind the Old Museum, at the RNA showgrounds in Bowen Hills.
The build was likened to that of a boat using sandwich foam over wooden frames before being joined together. Unlike the heavy build of a humpback whale and its mighty weight of 40 tonnes, these replicas are weightless, detailing a light aluminium superstructure.
The brood depicts a bull, pregnant cow and a young calf – cast from a deceased juvenile whale washed ashore near Moreton Bay. The young calf’s skeleton remains a permanent tribute displayed throughout the museum.
Brought to life with hyper realistic detail including barnacles crafted from fiberglass and resin, the whales patterning was achieved through two-pack paint, covered in latex. As an extra detail, the team who meticulously built the whales inscribed their names into the unique pattern as a lasting homage of the two-year build.
Relocating the pod
Perfectly timed to unveil at the International Whale Conference, the move was monumental, shutting down the busy streets of South Bank and escorted by a large semi-trailer to move the whale family six kilometres to their new home at Queensland Museum.
Craned to the top deck for assembly, the whales were delicately placed in the breezeway, only just achieving clearance from the roof.
Into the wild and the maintenance required
Having resided in the breezeway for more than 20 years, the whales are well maintained with regular washes and dusting. Captivating a large crowd and providing the backdrop of many tourist activity, the whales aren’t exempt from excited reactions, often collecting interesting objects. Many a time they’ve experienced school students eagerly enjoying class excursions to the museum, seen with the toss of a rogue hat and its retrieval involving the museum cherry picker.