The Tale of the Tails
People driving between exits 12 and 13 on Interstate 89 just outside of Burlington may be familiar with the “Whales Tails”, but do they know the story behind them?
The sculpture named, “Reverence”, was created by Jim Sardonis in 1989. Carved from 36 tons of African black granite, the tails stand between 12 and 13 feet tall and are meant to symbolize the fragility of the planet.
The tails were carved in two pieces, the vertical part of the tail and the horizontal flukes.The tails were commissioned by a local developer in 1989, and in 1999 Technology Park Partners purchased them and placed them where they are seen today. The sculpture has been on the cover of two books and is even documented in the Smithsonian’s Save Outdoor Sculpture! database. The tails were voted Best Roadside Attraction in 2014.
Whales… in Vermont?
Interestingly enough, the remains of a marine whale were unearthed in 1849 near the town of Charlotte by railroad workers. The bones, believed to be those of a Beluga whale, were ten feet beneath the ground in blue clay.
For 2,500 years after the end of the Ice Age (12,500 years ago), the Champlain Valley was an extension of the ocean known as the Champlain Sea.
More work by Jim Sardonis can be found at the New England Aquarium, Yale University, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Phillips Exeter Academy. His website and more information on the sculpture can be found by visiting www.sardonis.com.
For an overview of the walking path including the “Tails”, visit here. This video explains the evolution of the sculpture.
A World of Art by Henry Sayre