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Pheena is being lifted to be transported for repairs

Where did our whale go?

Pheena, our life-size fin whale, is taking a break! She is getting refurbished at Svendsen’s Bay Marine—a boat repair shop in Richmond. The 3,000 pound sculpture left her home on our plaza mid-May via truck and we expect to welcome her back after a few more weeks in the shop. In order to create the most lifelike sculpture possible, work on Pheena’s outer shell involves several steps to have her cracks repaired and get a new outer finish. First up, old layers must be removed to reveal areas that need repairs or reinforcement, or where there is suspected damage. Then, new layers of fiberglass and vinyl ester resin [1] are applied to cracks, holes, and other fractured parts of the shell. The final steps involve applying a primer and then a special coat of Durabak [2] that provides both a protective layer and the desired appearance.


[1] Vinyl ester is a type of fiber-reinforced plastic that falls between polyester and epoxy resin. It protects against water absorption and is highly resistant to corrosion.

[2] Durabak, made of polyurethane, is also used to coat indoor rock climbing structures and the linings of pickup truck beds, making it great for Pheena (given how many of you like to climb on her!). Using Durabak will make regular maintenance of Pheena much easier for us at The Lawrence.

We captured some time-lapse video of Pheena getting repairs the last time she needed some repairs:

Worker walks towards Pheena sculpture.

About Pheena

Pheena came to the plaza at the Lawrence Hall of Science in 1975. She was designed by artist Larry Foster, with support from the World Wildlife Fund, and was modeled to be an exact replica of a teenage female fin whale—the second largest whale in the world. Real fin whales weigh 40–80 tons, and have hundreds of “baleen” plates in their mouths to feed on even the tiniest creatures in the sea, called krill. They can live 80 to 90 years!