Help needed to restore Berkeley’s favorite big whale

A 2009 image of the fin whale model at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Hat4Rain
A 2009 image of the fin whale model at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Photo:  Hat4Rain

The Lawrence Hall of Science is asking the community for help to restore its “Big Whale,” the life-size replica of a fin whale that is located on the museum’s plaza. It hopes to raise a total of $65,000 for restoration work. The much-loved mammal is appreciated by many, and has been climbed on by several generations of children, ever since it was installed in the 1970s (see photo below of the whale being carried by helicopter to its Berkeley home).

Pheena, for that is her name, requires “tip-to-tail” restoration, and the UC Berkeley-owned museum is joining in the university’s Big Give 24-hour fundraising blitz — which happens on Thursday Nov. 19 — to help preserve what it say is a symbol of the Hall. Essential fixes are required to repair “significant damage” to the whale’s shell and frame, according to the museum.

“Pheena is a symbol of the discovery and imagination that can be found at the Hall, where we help children and adults think bigger and imagine the possibilities of science discovery,” the Hall wrote in a press release. “From our public science center to classrooms around the world, we activate science learning everywhere, for anyone.”

Flashback to 1981 when Pheena flew by the Golden Gate on her way to the Hall. Help us save Pheena during the #CalBigGive. Photo: Lawrence Hall of Science
Flashback to when Pheena flew by the Golden Gate on her way to the Hall. Help us save Pheena during the #CalBigGive. Photo: Lawrence Hall of Science

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, according to the Hall.


The William Knox Holt Foundation has donated seed funding to the Save Our Big Whale campaign, which means the museum is half way towards its fundraising goal of $65,000.

The Hall said it had identified artisans who can restore Pheena, who will be removed from the plaza, restored off-site, and then returned after refurbishment.

If the funds are not raised, the museum says it will need to fence the whale off from the public, as “she is quickly becoming too frail to climb on.”

During the 24-hour Big Give fundraising blitz money is raised for UC Berkeley’s favorite schools, colleges, and programs. Visit the Lawrence Hall of Science’s Save our Big Whale page online and BigGive.berkeley.edu for more information.

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