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Artists headed to Slack's Cove to pay tribute to whale

Hundreds of people were drawn to Slack’s Cove in late June-early July of 2008 to visit the site of where a sei whale had washed ashore and to get an up-close look at the 50-foot mammal.
Hundreds of people were drawn to Slack’s Cove in late June-early July of 2008 to visit the site of where a sei whale had washed ashore and to get an up-close look at the 50-foot mammal. - File image

Event being held to mark 10th anniversary of whale’s appearance, death

SLACK’S COVE, N.B. – It’s a summer Helen Pridmore won’t likely ever forget.

It was June 28, 2008 and Helen and her husband were camping on their property in Slack’s Cove with two of their friends when they came upon something on the beach that has continued to stick in their memories to this day – a 50-tonne, 15-metre long whale had washed ashore and was laying there in misery.

“We were the first to witness the whale there in the cove,” said Pridmore. “It was very traumatic as it was obviously in a lot of pain and distress.”

New Brunswick’s Department of Natural Resources officials and local heavy-equipment contractors begin the task of removing a whale carcass from the beach at Slack’s Cove near Rockport in the summer of 2008.

“There was nothing we could do to help,” she said.Throughout the night, the whale’s distress calls were fewer and farther apart, said Pridmore, and she had hoped the animal had somehow found its way back out to the bay. But the whale had died overnight, and Pridmore said it was tough to see that happen.

Although scientists never determined what caused the sei whale’s injuries or why it had come so close to shore, the massive animal was removed from the beach and buried inland several days after its death.

The four friends, all of them musicians and one a craftsman/carpenter, were so affected by the incident they wanted to find a way to honour the memory of the whale. And so, a performance project commemorating the events of that summer and to let others reminisce about the momentous occasion will be held this Thursday, Aug. 2 at Slack’s Cove.

“It seemed to be a good way to represent what happened,” said Pridmore. “It’s an event that a lot of folks in the area will remember.”

The Whale will be an all-day performance, which begins at low tide at about 10:30 a.m. The event will feature musical performances, a sound walk, storytelling, and group performances in which everyone will be invited to join. Performers will include Pridmore, Jesse Baird, WL Altman and Bucky Buckler.

Pridmore said people are invited to come out for the whole day or just for an hour or two, perhaps bring lunch and an instrument and join in for the “group music-making,” or just bring a chair and sit back and listen to what’s going on.

“There will be various types of activities going on throughout the day,” she said.

A highlight of the day will be the launch of a ‘whale,’ a large replica structure piece that will be placed on the beach and, as the tide comes in, will float on the water and will transmit sounds coming from the bay.

Pridmore said the base of the structure will be made of a styrofoam-type material so it can float atop the water and the ‘whale’ itself will be made of driftwood, rocks and other found materials from the beach.

“This will be a tribute to the whale … because there were so many people affected by this,” said Pridmore.

A finale performance by the four musicians is expected to end the day at high tide, around 4:30 or 5 p.m.

“So the whale should be floating beautifully in the bay by then.”

CHMA FM radio will include regular updates of the performances and interviews of The Whale throughout the day. Video of the event will also be shown at Struts Gallery on Aug. 2, as well as during Sappyfest Aug. 3 to 5. The event is supported by funding from the Canada Council.

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