Something peculiar may be seen this summer on Atlantic Canadian highways and coastlines: a giant, 20-foot-long statue of a North Atlantic right whale.
Project SculptShore is a fillable piece of art — a replica of the actual calf of Snow Cone, a right whale that got entangled in fishing rope last year — that will visit shoreline cleanups across the east coast to be filled with garbage and ocean debris.
“When I was coming down the street, I literally screamed, it was so exciting,” said Elizabeth Wile, one of two Nova Scotian women behind the project.
“It’s more than I could have ever imagined.”
The first stop on its summer-long tour was Scot’s Bay, N.S., in the Annapolis Valley on Wednesday evening.
The pair met through the Canadian Conservation Corps and created the project as part of a program in partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation. They worked with the artists behind BernArt Maze in Lunenberg County to bring the whale sculpture to life.
“It finally came out of the shop and it got on the trailer, and yes, it just came alive,” said Nicole Krebes with BernArt Maze.
The sculpture is a labour of love for Krebes, who said more than 400 man hours went into the project. It’s made of steel, cement and recycled materials, and weighs roughly one tonne.
“Now seeing it filled with garbage, it really hurts my heart, but it still also makes me happy that it will probably — hopefully — maybe change something,” Krebes said.
More than 30 volunteers came out to clean the beach in Scot’s Bay. In the end, they picked up and filled the sculpture with more than 700 pounds of trash.
“It was quite fun, to be honest. … It definitely feels rewarding carrying all of this — all the miscellaneous debris, rope gear, lobster elastics,” said Krish Thapar, a volunteer and Dalhousie University student. He said that Project SculptShore is “innovative” and that he believes it will have a positive impact.
Amount of trash ‘not surprising’
Angela Riley of Scotian Shores, an environmental organization out of Eastern Passage, N.S., that organizers shoreline cleanups, said the amount of trash collected is “not surprising.”
“There are places in Nova Scotia we could probably fill this whale in 30 minutes,” Riley said.
“To actually see this thing filled with garbage and to know that there’s so many other animals out there that are in this state, it’s kind of heartbreaking.”
Riley, who uses trash found on shorelines to create art, such as Halloween displays in her yard, said she was excited to partner with Project SculptShore. She believes the “in-your-face” artwork will have an impact.
“I really like doing trash art and this is just bigger and better than anything I could ever do,” she said.
“It really kind of connects how we’re using the ocean as a garbage bin and now this whale is being used as a garbage bin.”
The project’s overall goal is to raise awareness about the endangered species, of which there are roughly 370 left in existence. Another goal is to show people how litter affects the ocean and the marine wildlife that call it home.
“If we can find solutions around that and get people engaged, I think that connection with the whales themselves will be stronger, as well as the impact toward the betterment of their habitat,” Wile said.
The whale is heading to Prince Edward Island on June 17 for a three-event, single-day tour of the province. It has a summer full of stops, but Wile said they are still looking for sponsors for future shoreline cleanups, who would be able to assist with transportation.
You can track the sculpture’s movements throughout the summer on social media using the hashtag #FollowTheWhale.