Sunday, December 17, 2023

Discover the Arcachon whale tail, an unusual beacon...

From BoatNews by Maxime Leriche
Every spring, a new species of marine mammal takes up summer residence off the coast of Arcachon.
Installed between the Thiers and Eyrac jetties, this whale tail is actually a floating work of art, with a new decoration every year.
We spoke to Emmanuel Janssens Casteels, the artist behind this marine work of art.

A local initiative

The Arcachon whale tail was created in 2010 by Emmanuel Janssens Casteels, a Belgian artist specializing in life-size reconstructions in the natural sciences.
His creations are usually destined for museums, cinema or scientific purposes.
He was kind enough to tell us about the genesis of this highly original project:
"I was asked by the Arcachon town council to design an ephemeral work. I suggested a whale's tail in the process of sounding. The town council found the idea excellent and quickly approved the project. I was lucky enough to have a cast of a real whale tail in my studio. I tested it in a 3m prototype pool to validate the calculations". 
Localization with the GeoGarage platform (SHOM nautical raster chart)

Polyester construction 

It was in his workshop in Prayssas, in the Lot et Garonne region, a long way from the sea, that the whale tail was made.
It took over 6 months of hard work to complete the project, as Emmanuel explains:

"After conclusive tests, we set about building this 9.6-metre span, almost 10-metre high structure. To build it, I created large templates, with a polyester envelope, a bit like making a boat hull. The counterweight is made of stainless steel. I redesigned the silhouette to resemble a whale's tail, with stiffeners to guarantee the curves.

The transport was done in several pieces.
I assembled everything in the technical area of the port of Arcachon.
With a draught of 5m, the whole thing weighs almost 2 tonnes. 

When it was launched, I was a bit worried that it wouldn't work. I'm not used to floating structures. Initially, the project was supposed to last just one season.
But in the end, the structure held firm, and the whale tail has now been on display on Arcachon's beaches every summer for almost 13 years".

Moored on a solid mooring, she's in the water from spring to early autumn, and takes shelter every winter near l'Aiguillon. 

New colors at every launch 

Since its launch in 2011, the Arcachon whale tail has changed color with each new tourist season.
These new colors are chosen according to an event or current trends, and are a delight for tourists. 

Recently, an autumnal depression hit the basin, and the whale tail broke its mooring, wandering to the bottom of the basin.
Stranded on a sandbank, it has since returned to its winter home to refresh itself before the next season. 

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