WHEN: Sat., Oct. 7, 10:15am


EYE TO EYE Larry may have had his eye on Pheena. But she always had her eye on him.

WHERE: U.C. Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science, 1 Centennial Dr in Berkeley 94720


WHAT: Honor Larry Foster as Lawrence Hall of Science dedicates a plaque to him, the artist behind their beloved teenage fin whale replica, Pheena and celebrate the marine environment on Bay Day at the Hall. Other activities include ecology & geology marine stations, a science regatta where you can build and test boats out of recyclable materials and more until 3pm.




A model of a teenage fin whale made with 2,570 linear feet of steel, 3,000 sq ft of layered fiber glass, two and a half barrels of polyester resin, 50 pounds of microsphere fairing compound and 1,900 man hours.


Saturday, October 7, is the day you can meet artist, humorist and whale scientist Larry Foster, creator of Pheena, the 50′ model fin whale who lives at U.C. Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science. Since it is Bay Day organized by Save the Bay, it is the perfect day to honor Larry Foster for his contributions to the world’s knowledge and love of whales.

Larry started researching whales at a time when all we had ever seen were whales with big bloated bellies, which were very stiff-looking, dead whales. Based on his research, which included the archives at UCB, he began to draw these beautiful creatures, precise line by precise line. He also painted them with water colors and oil.  They were a first. “And then, to my surprise,” says Larry, “the National Geographic Magazine came to me. They wanted to see and publish my corrected views of whales. So did the Smithsonian, and many other museums, universities and environmental institutions. I was making whales look good for the first time. Today, 50 years later, I still am.” He illustrated books that became every ocean-oriented person’s required manual and guide. At this point in time commercial whaling was threatening these creatures with extinction and the fight to save them was on – through education.

“Larry Foster’s whales were long, slender, agile, supple, graceful animals that looked like they were floating in space,” commented Craig Strang, Associate Director, UCB Lawrence Hall of Science. “They touched each other and interacted with each other. In a word, Larry Foster’s whales looked alive.”

Sandy & Pheena on the beach together at Crab Cove in Alameda

Pheena is a model teenage fin whale, the second largest mammal in the world (up to 70′ and 50 tons), with the blue whale being the largest (up to over 100′ long). Larry Foster created a nonprofit called General Whale to build awareness of whales and carry out the battle to save them through research and education. Their school education packet included instructions for drawing a precise 92′ long blue whale on the sidewalk and fun stories about whales children would like –” The fin whale is larger than two school buses. Three horses could fit in its mouth. It’s flipper is as large as a man.”

“Larry has given us our understanding of whales, dolphins and porpoises,” said longtime Bay Area friend Terry Peters. “He is the master of whale research. And everything he did revolved around it. He has folks from around the world consulting with him.” Larry’s first large scale whale was Sandy, a 40 foot, 5,000 lb. cement sculpture of the California grey whale. “I remember seeing Sandy for the first time,” continues Terry, “on a flatbed truck in front of my friend Mike’s house in Alameda. She was amazing and huge!” Sandy had a stint at the Santa Cruz Museum, Santa Barabara Museum and eventually moved to her permanent home in front of the Pacific Grove Museum. Then there was her sister, Pheena. The new whale on the flatbed.

“I knew Pheena before she gleamed with her final coat,” recalls Judy Waldear. “I remember staying up all night with the General Whale team sanding and sanding until the sun came up over Fort Mason, where she was built.” That next day Pheena was lifted from her flatbed home by helicopter high above the masts of sailboats in the marina, and placed on the Marina Green in San Francisco. According to Matt Herron (Smithsonian Magazine, January 1976), “Pheena, the flying finback whale, swims in the breeze, floats over trees, chases seagulls, capers with kites. When she comes down, no child approaches at a walk.” He compared the helicopter to the Stork delivering her. And the children climbed all over her, sliding down her tail. For them it was the first time they had seen a whale. As it was for all the bystanders.

After her introduction in San Francisco, captured on all networks, Pheena was placed back on her flatbed truck and traveled all around the country with a grant by World Wildlife Fund, to visit museums so children and adults could experience the beauty and compassion of the fin whale.  “And then Pheena found her forever home,” said Mary Foster, Larry’s wife, “at the Lawrence Hall of Science in 1975.”

“Larry’s contribution to understanding whales and to the movement to protect whales is as great as that of any scientist or environmental activist,” continued Craig. “His paintings stood and still stand on their own, with no need for slogans or appeals. They captivate our imaginations and challenge our conscience. I’m sure that our very own Pheena has been physically touched, not to mentioned climbed on, by more people than any image or sculpture of a whale in the world.

“Larry’s work, his books, paintings, murals and sculptures have had a profound impact on the relationship between humans and whales worldwide. We are so pleased and proud to have his largest and perhaps greatest piece here at Lawrence Hall of Science.”

Pheena was restored recently by Bay Marine Works in Richmond. Watch the process!

Come meet Larry Foster and introduce yourself. You will walk away with at least one obtuse new fact about whales, plus you will feel like you were just entertained by one of the great storytellers.

A few books:

  • The Blue Whale, National Geographic Society
  • The Sierra Club Handbook of Whales and Dolphins, Sierra Club Books
  • The World’s Whales, Smithsonian Books
  • Mind in the Waters, Charles Scribners Sons