22 June 2023
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Lifesize whale sculpture gifted to Orkney community to commemorate marine wildlife tragedy22 June 2023
The Backaskaill sperm whale stranding – the UK’s largest – saw 11 male sperm whales averaging 30 tonnes each, stranded on the beach in December 1994.
Also featured on the interpretation boards are some facts on the 'founding father of Orkney folklore', Walter Traill Dennison.
“Customer and community engagement is core to what we do at Scottish Water and we hope the legacies of a well-known farmer and folklorist, and the whales, live on through this contribution to the community.”Calum Scott
Senior Project Manager, Scottish Water
A lifesize whale sculpture commemorating a marine wildlife tragedy has been installed at a coastal site in Orkney, previously used by Scottish Water to dry and store sludge from the production of drinking water.
The site adjacent to Backaskaill Bay on Sanday, one of Orkney’s north isles, was needed historically to manage waste from the production of the island community’s drinking water. Changes to waste management legislation mean that the site is no longer required, presenting a question about its future. Extensive work with SEPA, including several years of groundwater sampling, showed that the site could be restored successfully with very low risk to the environment.
This set a course for Scottish Water to work with the community council to restore the site to offer improved amenity for both residents and visitors. Scottish Water, working with its contractor Morrison Construction, has kick-started the transformation by creating a car park, capping and landscaping the sludge beds, planting trees and natural grass, providing picnic benches and information boards explaining the island’s heritage.
The area is known as the home of the ‘founding father of Orkney folklore’, Walter Traill Dennison, who lived there in the 19th century, and who features on the story boards. As does the Backaskaill sperm whale stranding – the UK’s largest – which saw 11 male sperm whales averaging 30 tonnes each, stranded on the beach in December 1994. Sadly, all lost their lives, and this tragedy inspired the creation of the sculpture now in place.
Rose Snelson, aged 12 who lives on the island, said: “It’s really good, I feel like it will help the community remember and realise how much whales meant – and mean – to us.”
Andy Wilcox, Chair of Sanday Community Council, said: “Scottish Water coming in and doing this for us is fantastic. It’s a beautiful part of the world and it’ll also bring tourism to the island because the bay itself is beautiful. It’s a good commemoration of the whales that were stranded here because that was a big event on the island.”
Drew Mackie, Construction Manager for Morrison Construction, said: “Scottish Water wanted to give something back to the community. This is a life-size sculpture and the actual eye of the whale was designed and built by a local artist.
“We used local contractors, which made sense and brings that social value back to the project for Scottish Water, and puts the money back into the communities. My thanks to Morrison Construction colleagues Matthew and Gregor, who were instrumental in the design and build of this community-focussed project.”
Calum Scott, Senior Project Manager for Scottish Water, said: “Our Orkney-based project manager, Michael, worked closely with the community council and local residents to create this amenity area that blends into the local landscape. As well as using local contractors to minimise the carbon impact of the groundworks, there are additional carbon benefits realised through using locally-sourced materials for the restoration of the site.
“Customer and community engagement is core to what we do at Scottish Water and we hope the legacies of a well-known farmer and folklorist, and the whales, live on through this contribution to the community.”