The design for a new onshore whale watching venue inside the Arctic Circle has just been revealed. ‘The Whale’ aims to help change whaling practices in Norway by giving people a chance to fall in love with the majestic animals.
Situated 300km inside the Arctic Circle, on one of Norway’s most northern islands, the town of Andenes is one of the best places in the world to see migrating whales. Now it will also be home to a brand new visitor attraction that will provide a place to watch the gentle giants without invading their natural habitat. The beautiful structure was chosen out of many entries for its practical yet poetic design. It is hoped that by giving people a chance to learn about these amazing creatures and see them up close ‘The Whale’ can help protect its namesakes. Who are currently still hunted in Norwegian waters in open defiance of the ban on commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The site will open its doors in 2022 and will surely become the go to place for any whale watcher.
Andenes & whale watching
On the most northerly tip of Andøya Island deep inside the Arctic Circle, the small fishing town of Andenes lies sandwiched between rolling mountains and the deep waters of the Northern Atlantic. With a population of just over two and a half thousand people it is hardly the most noteworthy place in Norway. Apart from the fact that every year 50,000 people from across the globe visit the town to catch a glimpse of their resident ocean giants. The deep dark nutrient-rich waters just off the coast are home to an abundance of squid. Which in turn attracts hundreds if not thousands of migrating whales every year. Depending on the time of year humpback, minke, sperm and killer whales can all be found in the area. As well as eagles, puffins and seals. It makes Andenes one of the best places to watch whales in the world.
The breath taking winning design for ‘The Whale’ was put forward by Danish architectural firm Dorte Mandrup. It revolves around a single curved concrete shell that makes up the roof and creates a simple yet stunning space below. They describe their design like “as if a giant had lifted a thin layer of the crust of the earth and created a cavity underneath”. It provides a single column free chamber which will be filled with a viewing platform, education centre, shop and café. As well as the roof where people will not only be able to see whales in the open, but also the nearby mountains and at night the famous northern lights. The competition organisers described the design as ‘a clear winner’ and believes it has the potential to become a ‘world class attraction’. Building will begin shortly with doors to be opened to the public in 2022.
Although ‘The Whale’ will primarily be a tourist attraction to celebrate whale watching. There is also a much more serious reason behind its creation. Norway is one of the few remaining countries that still openly hunts whales in their own territorial waters for profit. Despite a global ban on commercial whaling set out by the IWC in 1986. In generations gone by whaling has played an important role in Norwegian society. Particularly in places like Andenes where whale meat and blubber would have been necessary to survive in isolated Arctic regions. But in the modern world it is a much more controversial and far less necessary activity. Yet despite this Norway has shown little sign of stopping the hunts. In the 2019 season Norway killed 429 minke whales, the main target for their modern day hunts.
But public opinions on whaling in Norway are starting to show some signs of change. In a recent survey only 4% of Norwegian people admitted to frequently eating whale meat with over 2/3 saying they had never eaten it. It also revealed that particularly the younger generations had stronger onjections to whaling for ethical and conservation reasons. By providing a place where people can learn about and celebrate whales alongside their natural environment, it is hoped that over time ‘The Whale’ can help continue this shift away from commercial whaling. It is for this reason that anti-whaling groups such as Whales and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) are very excited by the idea.