Just twenty years ago, on Memorial Day weekend in 1976, more than 100 volunteer whale lovers gathered outside the Science Center of Connecticut at 950 Trout Brook Drive in West Hartford, to participate in what radio announcer Bob Steele called "the biggest amateur construction job since Noah built the ark." They were there to complete the construction, using 15 tons of fresh cement, of a life-size, 60-foot, ferro-cement model of an adult, male Sperm Whale, the only such model anyplace in the world.
Nicknamed "CONNY", stemming from the abbreviation for Connecticut, whose official state animal is the Sperm Whale, the giant outdoor structure is now being refurbished to add new dimensions to its effectiveness as a unique educational display. A rededication celebration is planned for Saturday, June 15, 1996, in West Hartford.
Whale conservation is once again becoming a vital cause. Norway and Japan are leading a global move to resume commercial whale killing, despite the world-wide ban set in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission. CONNY's renewed mission is to raise people's consciousness about the wonder of whales and the importance of their being permanently protected world-wide.
The Science Center of Connecticut, backed by the Cetacean Society International, is planning an exciting program for the twentieth anniversary of the whale model's first unveiling. Local, state, and national officials are being invited to participate on June 15 in celebrating CONNY's new look and mission, and the program will include whale songs by CSI Past President Don Sineti, a key member of The Morgans folksinging group.
The event will inaugurate two dramatic new features for the CONNY display. Fifteen-foot spouts will periodically shoot out from the top of CONNY's forehead, replicating as closely as possible the actual spouting of Sperm Whales at sea. And inside the whale, an interactive loudspeaker system will enable visitors to hear recordings of the loud, sonar-like, clicking sounds made by Sperm Whales underwater communicating with each other and searching for squid and other food prey.
As part of the celebration, a series of video films will be shown in the Science Center with spectacular scenes of living Sperm Whales in their natural habitat, both on the surface and in the deep. In addition, a special feature of the program will be the premiere showing of a new documentary video on "The Building of CONNY," produced by CSI Director Emeritus Robbins Barstow, who filmed the model's construction 20 years ago from beginning to end.
The refurbishing of CONNY this spring has been a cooperative effort involving Ken Thickman, of Glastonbury, Connecticut, organizing weekend work crews as part of an eagle scout project, and CSI Board member Robert Victor, the engineer responsible for CONNY's original design in 1976. Helping to coordinate the project have been Hank Gruner, education director, and Len Specht, planetarium director, at the Science Center.
To assure as much scientific accuracy as possible, Sperm Whale experts from around the world have been consulted, including field researcher Kim Marshall and others at the Whale Conservation Institute in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and National Geographic author Dr. Hal Whitehead, from Nova Scotia, Canada.
For further information and confirmation of the June 15 date and time, please phone the Science Center of Connecticut, in West Hartford, at 860-231-2824. But in any case, bring friends and family and don't miss this blockbuster occasion on behalf of Sperm Whales and all other cetaceans!
© Copyright 1996, Cetacean Society International, Inc.
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