We have met lots of people on our statue tour, many of them wondering what a guy from the San Diego Zoo is doing in their area (see previous blog Statue Tour: First Stop, Milwaukee!). When I explain that we are driving across country to deliver mammoth statues to the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey exhibit, they all want to know more (good thing I am able to answer all of their questions).
We did not have any major stops since Milwaukee because the truck had to take alternate routes due to the mammoth height of the load—and that’s no pun, that’s a fact! Apparently, after getting true measurements of the height of the tallest mammoth on the trailer, they had to find routes that the truck, trailer, and mammoth load could fit under! We were able to drive by, but not through, Chicago and St. Louis.
Having had the opportunity to spend some time with the statues as we tour across America, I have noticed something: the details; more specifically, the attention to detail that the artist has put into these amazing statues.
Looking in the eyes of the mammoth, the realism is remarkable. The features in the skin, from the subtle lines in the trunk to the delicate areas near the eyes, all look so real. Honestly, you half expect them to start moving!
The details in the two Pleistocene epoch birds are no less amazing than the others. You quickly forget you are viewing sculpted concrete when looking at the features of their beaks. Equally impressive is the appearance of overlaying feathers along the bodies of both the teratorn and the Daggett’s eagle.
A question that has come up a few times is, “Are they life size?” And the answer is yes, at least as best as we humans of today can scientifically estimate. The artist and research staff at the San Diego Zoo examined data previously gathered by paleontologists. The statues were created with this information and knowledge of what current animals look like today.
Of course another good question I get is, “What are they made of?” Without going into too much detail, they are made of steel frames and wire with fiberglass and concrete making the shape of each animal. Then more concrete was used to make the outer “skin” or “feathers,” followed with a special acrylic paint for the finishing touch!
I’ll post more details from the road if I think of any that I haven’t mentioned yet.
Rick Schwartz is the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey Ambassador.