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Children playing on Pheena in the sunshine

Pheena is back!

At the Lawrence Hall of Science, learning begins before you enter the door with Pheena, our beloved fin whale sculpture. Pheena has now returned to her home on the Hall’s plaza after six weeks of much needed repairs. Read below to learn more about her restoration and the community that came together to make it happen.

Pheena in the News

Pheena is a staple of the Hall and the Berkeley community. That's why it was no surprise so many showed interest and came out for her return. Click below and learn more about our big whale’s homecoming:

Pheena and some Hall knitters

Your Donations at Work

Thanks to the support of donors to UC Berkeley’s 2015 Big Give fundraising blitz and a matching gift from the William Knox Holt Foundation, we raised enough money to restore Pheena.

Our biggest thanks to the many community members who helped to ensure that Pheena is available for years to come, inspiring everyone to explore the world around them. If you’d like to join the community and support the Hall and our beloved whale, you can still do so by donating to the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Pheena, her custom dolly, and our strong movers

Pheena’s Restoration

Pheena’s Restoration was completed by the experts at Bay Marine Boatworks. Learn more about her restoration process by reading “A Whale of a Job: Restoring the Hall's Beloved Fin Whale”.

Jerman Lopez, of Bay Marine Boatworks, with Pheena under repair

Meet Jerman Lopez from Bay Marine Boatworks

When asked if people around Bay Marine Boatworks were excited about the prospect of getting such a project as Pheena’s restoration, Project Manager Rann Phibbs pointed to one of the two workers in white suits and said, “He was the worst. He kept asking me, ‘Did we get it? When is it coming?’”

Jerman Lopez is a painter who has been working at Bay Marine for about two years. He told us the story about the lead-up to Pheena’s arrival at the boat yard.

“When I first heard we were going to be working on a whale, I thought everyone was just messing with me. One day I was grabbing lunch down the road, and a bunch of cars drove by. The woman next to me was staring out the window, and then I saw the whale going by.”

Jerman has most recently been working with Jessie on “fiberglass and weird stuff.” Repairing a life-sized fiberglass whale sculpture definitely falls under both of those categories.

As we learned from Jerman, though, “It’s not that different. It’s the same kind of work.”

When asked what his favorite part has been about working on Pheena, he told us he’s loved the whole project. “I’ve treated it like it’s my baby. I’m honored to be doing this work, especially after I heard it’s for a museum. I can take my daughter there and tell her I worked on the whale.”

Worker walks towards Pheena sculpture.

The Science Behind Pheena

Restoring our life-size fin whale sculpture is a large endeavor combining engineering and the latest in fiberglass technology. Pheena’s repairs can be split into two categories: cosmetic and structural work on the outer shell, and repairs to internal structures.

Work on Pheena’s outer shell is focused on creating the most lifelike sculpture possible. The first step involves removing the sculpture’s gel coat and paint finish to reveal areas that need repairs or reinforcing, or where there is suspected damage. Once the old layers have been removed, new layers of fiberglass and vinyl ester resin[1] will be applied to cracks, holes, and other fractured parts of the shell. The final step involves applying a special gel coat[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] Gel coats are thick resin layers used to provide a high-quality finish on the visible surface of a fiber-reinforced composite like fiberglass. Gel coats can be mixed with colorants to produce various colors.

Internal repairs to Pheena’s structure will help strengthen the sculpture’s frame and ensure that Hall guests can climb, sit, and walk on her for years to come. The steel spine that runs the length of the entire sculpture will be the main focus of the internal work. Unidirectional[1] and biaxial[2] fiberglass will be used to reinforce weakening bonds between the steel spine and the fiberglass shell. These repairs will create a structure that can last for another 30 to 40 years.

[1] Unidirectional fiberglass is a type of fiberglass cloth in which the majority of the tiny fibers that make up the material run in the same direction. Unidirectional fiberglass is strongest in the direction it is laid.

[2] Biaxial fiberglass is a type of fiberglass cloth with fibers that run in two directions. Most biaxial fiberglass uses opposing 45-degree angles, and provides the same strength in multiple orientations.

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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!