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Where Whales Go, People Follow

22 November 2007


Where Whales Go, People Follow – Te Papa Opens
Whales Tohorä On Saturday 1 December

Te Papa and principal sponsor Whale Watch Kaikoura Ltd present Whales Tohorä, a major new exhibition in the tradition of the successful Lord of the Rings exhibition. Interactive and immersive, Whales Tohorä is an experience that brings adults and children eye to eye with some of the world’s most elusive creatures. After showing in Te Papa’s TOWER Gallery until May 2008, Whales Tohorä will tour institutions in North America, opening in the National Geographic Museum’s Explorers Hall in Washington, DC.

‘Whales Tohorä's unique blend of science, storytelling and innovative interactivity will appeal to both adults and children, in New Zealand and internationally,’ said Dr Seddon Bennington, Te Papa’s Chief Executive.

Featuring a massive 17.8 metre fully articulated sperm whale skeleton, Whales Tohorä showcases amazing and rare specimens from Te Papa’s whale collection, one of the largest in the world. Visitors will see life-size and scale models of whales common to the South Pacific, including a beaked whale skull created by Weta Workshop and ancient and contemporary whalebone treasures such as weapons and chiefly adornments. The intricacies of whale biology and the bloody history of whaling in New Zealand are examined, and visitors also have a unique opportunity to encounter whales through video portholes and be transported into their underwater world via two large immersive projections.

The Whale Lab is full of interactive science. Children can crawl through a life-size replica of the largest ever living creature’s heart – the blue whale. The extraordinary evolutionary journey of whales from land to the sea is shown by casts of fossil whale ancestors. Animated renderings of these early forebears show how the transition of leaving the land and completely adapting to a life in the sea. Visitors can tune in to a range of whale sounds and discover how scientists and amateur trackers identify individual whales on their migration through the Pacific Ocean. The Whale Lab also features ‘Search & Destroy’, an experience that takes visitors to the ocean depths with a sperm whale on a hunt in search of giant squid, recreated from real data and sounds collected directly from a real sperm whale!

For centuries the people of the South Pacific have interacted with whales. A moving film experience, encapsulated in a model whale head from the movie Whale Rider, tells the stories of three whale-riding traditions in New Zealand, including the famous story of Paikea. The story of the chief Tinirau and his pet whale, Tutunui, is a tale of love and revenge recognised throughout the South Pacific and brought to life in a stunning stand-alone animated movie.

Early whaling in New Zealand provided many trading opportunities between Mäori and Pakeha. These encounters punctuate the history of the New Zealand whale trade and are illustrated by objects such as harpoons, scrimshaw (whale tooth carvings) and mäori taonga (treasures). The shift in New Zealand’s history, from a whaling nation to one renowned for its ecotourism and anti-whaling stance, is told though emotional first person interviews and graphic imagery.

Whalebone and teeth have long been a material of great value for objects of status, adornment and warfare. Ancient and rare taonga such as jewellery and weaponry from the South Pacific are stunningly displayed in a special storehouse; contemporary works by Mäori artists, such as Rangi Kipa, complement interviews and information about the value of whale stranding events in New Zealand today.

Mr Kauahi Ngapora, Whale Watch Kaikoura’s General Manager Operations said, ‘In our view it was only fitting that the premier whale watching operation in New Zealand is involved with this exhibition. Now we have the opportunity to be part of educating people further about these unique creatures, the environment they live in and their conservation’.

Whales Tohorä will show in the TOWER Gallery from 1 December 2007 – 11 May 2008 and is proudly supported by principal sponsor Whale Watch Kaikoura Ltd and the Department of Conservation. Te Papa acknowledges the support of the New Zealand Government in making this exhibition possible.

1 December – 11 May 2008
TOWER Gallery, Level 4
Te Papa
Admission: Adults, $8.00; Children (up to 14 years), free entry; Concession, $5.50


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