Pheena the whale statue returns to Lawrence Hall of Science

Mikaela Raphael/Staff

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Members of the public gathered in the rain Wednesday to celebrate the return of a whale statue to the Lawrence Hall of Science after the sculpture was removed in order to undergo a structural makeover.

The whale, named Pheena, was located at the Lawrence Hall of Science after the statue was placed there in 1975. Because of wear caused by children climbing and playing on the structure over the last 40 years, Pheena required extensive repairs.

“Every single school group and child that comes through climbs on her,” exhibit developer Allan Ayres said. “I like to say they start doing science before you even get into the hall.”

Because methods used to restore the structure are similar to those employed in mending boats, the whale was moved to Bay Marine Boatworks in Richmond in order to be repaired.

Workers began the restoration by stripping damaged areas of the whale in order to accurately determine the extent of repairs required. Layers of new fiberglass were added along with a steel spine that runs the length of the structure to ensure stability. An artist was hired to ensure the whale was given a scientifically accurate paint job.

Last fall, a fundraising campaign was held by the Lawrence Hall of Science as part of the campus’s Big Give initiative in order to raise money to afford the repairs. The target goal of $65,000 was met through grassroots campaign efforts made by members of the community and donations given by past visitors to the museum.

“It was not a cheap proposition, fixing her,said Rena Dorph, interim director of the Lawrence Hall of Science. “The reason we decided to make the investment was the positive experience people had with her.”

According to Elizabeth Stage, director of the Lawrence Hall of Science, Pheena inspires children to take interest in the natural world.

“As they grow older, they come to appreciate how our actions connect to the planet. It is the beginning of a conservation message,” Stage said.