Giant whale sculpture arrives in Dundee after four-day sea journey in poor weather

On a very murky Monday, through rain and fog it came.

A 22-tonne sculpture of a humpback whale has arrived in Dundee, its four-day sea voyage from the south coast of England coming to an end as it appeared in the mouth of the River Tay around 3pm.

Poor weather hampered the journey of the city’s latest landmark, which will sit next to the V&A Dundee and become a canopy on the new £1bn waterfront.

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While the whale marks the latest chapter in the city’s regeneration, it also reflects the city’s past as a major whaling port from the mid-18th Century to just before the start of the Great War. Today and into the future, it will also serve as a message about the state of our oceans.

The sculpture was created by Lee Simmons, who was commissioned by Dundee City Council to make the piece after winning a design competition 18 months ago.

Simmons, whose workshop is in Littlehampton, West Sussex, said: “I’ve spent many hours working on this for the past year, I have a sense of ownership over it and now I’m sort of letting go of it, but in the same breath it is good because this project was always destined for the public.”

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The humpback sculpture, which is made up of stainless steel hollow tubes and has 2,457 individual parts, was lowered into the water in Littlehampton on Thursday using a 500-tonne crane.

An impression of the sculpture in its new home close to V&A Dundee. PIC: Dundee City Council.An impression of the sculpture in its new home close to V&A Dundee. PIC: Dundee City Council.
An impression of the sculpture in its new home close to V&A Dundee. PIC: Dundee City Council.

It was then placed on a 50-metre long barge, which transported the whale up through the North Sea.

In Dundee, it will be lifted into position using one of the country’s largest road cranes with the sculpture to flow from the northern entrance of Waterfront Place towards the Tay to capture a sense of movement.

A spokesman for Dundee City Council said planning of the whale’s journey had taken around year with discussions involving Mr Simmons, the fabricator and transport companies.

It will now form a centrepiece to the new £6m Waterfront Place, which was officially opened in July and where a multi-sensory park can be found alongside spaces for cycling, walking and ultra low-emission cars.

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Simmons was awarded a contract of just under £135,000 to create and transport the piece. His other works include a memorial to actor David Conville at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre and the Great War Memorial in London, which commemorates staff of Westminster City Council who lost their lives during World War One.

With Simmons’ whale comes a 650 metre squared interactive digital ‘play park’ which includes recordings of male whale song.

He earlier told reporters: “There are over 2,500 parts of the whale. It becomes your baby. Every little tube, every connection. The pectoral fin. I obsessed about the transition between that and the body. Now it’s out there in the world for everyone to enjoy.”

According to Friends of Dundee City Archives, the Dundee whaling fleet participated in the Arctic Whale and seal hunting for longer than many other countries.

The last custom built steam ship from Alexander Stephen’s yard in Dundee was the ‘Terra Nova’, which was used in the relief mission to the ‘Discovery’, the ship that took Scott and Shackleton to Antarctica in 1901, and which is berthed just a few minutes walk from the whale.

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