June 6, 2023

Wyland Whaling Wall returns to Seattle

Posted by Laura Guertin

Wyland returns to Seattle in 2019 to create his 101st Whaling Wall!

(*click image for animated GIF to open)

animated GIF containing images of the Seattle Wyland Whaling Wall


Some Whaling Wall background

Although World Whale Day falls on the third Sunday in February each year,  it seems that National Ocean Month is also an appropriate time to call attention to whales and to those that promote awareness and conservation. Back in 2017, I blogged about Wyland Whaling Walls for World Whale Day and the work of marine life artist Robert Wyland with his 100 life-sized whale murals. I mention the Whaling Walls in my classes, as we have one of the Wyland murals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Alas, we “had” a Wyland Whaling Wall in Philadelphia. In 2017, the Philly wall was removed because of building renovations (see Philadelphia’s Whaling Wall heading for extinction). In that blog post, I included photos of the mural’s removal. These are before/after photos of the same building.

I’ve been on the lookout for the Wyland Whaling Walls during my travels. I enjoying seeing them and taking photos and sharing the stories behind them. I traveled to Portland, Oregon, in April 2023 and sought out the whaling wall there. Alas, although the whaling wall in Portland, Maine, still survives, the one in Portland, Oregon, only lasted four years before the building it was on was torn down (see this blog post on Portland Building Ads). I did a quick Google search and found that the Seattle whaling wall was also destroyed by the owner of the building, so when I had a layover in Seattle during my travels last week, I didn’t bother to look for one.


I spy with my whale-watching eye…

Imagine my surprise when I was walking along the Seattle waterfront! I had to do a double-take to confirm what I was seeing – but yes, it was a new Wyland Whaling Wall!

side of building with whales painted on it

Wyland Whaling Wall #101, in Seattle, Washington

(OK – “new” as of 2019, but definitely new to me and I’m sure to others that have not traveled to Seattle in recent years) I had seen articles about Wyland revisiting some of his prior murals and restoring or repainting the entire work (see New London and Laguna Beach). Wyland started his mission of painting 100 whale murals across the globe in 1981 in California and ended July 2008 in China, so it was quite a surprise to see and learn that Wyland has recently restarted and continued with his mission.

The Seattle Times has a great article about the original mural painted in 1985 (the 5th in the 100 whale wall series), which was removed just 10 years later when the building was renovated. Wyland returned to the same location and painted a new mural, number 101, thanks to an invitation from the new owner of the hotel (see photos on the Park West Gallery website).

This video does a great job showing the painting of this 101st mural – and the contributions of Eddie Vedder (yes, that Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam):

Fortunately, our conversations around the whaling walls will persist into the future, thanks to the activities of the Wyland Foundation, and from stories that appear on CBS Sunday Morning and publicity from other media outlets. Importantly, the murals are large and in prominent locations, catching the attention of those passing by. Hopefully, the images also generate conversations around the stories of these murals, and the greater challenges facing our ocean as a whole.