Ice sculpture on Central Wharf Plaza to celebrate 40 years of Aquarium’s Right Whale Research Program


Public invited to view live sculpture making on February 15 & 16

BOSTON, MASS. (February 10, 2021) – As the New England Aquarium celebrates the 40th anniversary of its Right Whale Research Program, an ice sculpture of a right whale mother and calf will be taking shape on Central Wharf Plaza.

Media are invited to see the sculpture finished on Tuesday, February 16. Ice sculptor Don Chapelle and Marianna Hagbloom, a research assistant with the right whale team, will be on hand for interviews from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The Aquarium has been working with Don Chapelle of Brilliant Ice Sculpture in Lawrence for 14 years to create massive sculptures for the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration. Because the Aquarium was closed to the public at the end of 2020 to help Boston slow the spread of COVID-19, the sculpture making moved to February, just in time for Massachusetts school vacation week.

“The Aquarium is a fascinating place. Beyond all the glass and beautiful fish and amazing exhibits, there is so much happening behind the scenes,” Chapelle said. “How can you not love an institution that is so involved in marine biology on every level?”

Chapelle begins the process at his studio, using powerful ice sculpting tools to mold the intricate designs. The pieces will then be fused together outside the Aquarium on February 15 and 16, weather permitting. The sculpture will be 16 feet long, 10 feet deep, and 6.5 feet tall, formed out of 40 blocks of ice that each weigh 350 pounds. This will mark the first time right whales have come to life on the plaza. Chapelle says he has always wanted to carve a whale sculpture, gaining an interest in the species nearly 30 years ago when he and his family spotted a right whale calf while on a whale watch.

Scientists with the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life have been studying right whales since 1980. The Right Whale Research Program aims to develop and implement solutions to reduce the threats of vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements on the critically endangered species, which numbers just over 350 whales.

“Through our work as the curators of the photo-identification catalog and with the collaboration of the right whale community, we have learned so much about these whales and their trials and tribulations,” said Amy Knowlton, senior scientist at the Aquarium. “We continue to focus on finding ways for right whales to live safely in their watery home. This ice sculpture represents the hope for their future by celebrating a mother with her newborn calf tucked by her side.”

This winter’s right whale calving season is cause for guarded optimism. So far, 14 calves have been spotted off the coast of the southern U.S., more than the number born in a single winter since 2016. Calving season typically begins in early December and runs through March. Aquarium scientists say a healthy calving season would yield around 23 calves, a number not seen from the species since the 2000’s.

The New England Aquarium reopened to the public on February 5 with health and safety measures in place, including strictly enforced mask wearing for those over age 5, one-way guest flow, and enhanced cleaning efforts. The ice sculpture will kick off Massachusetts school vacation week at Central Wharf, which runs February 15-19. With building capacity limited to below 20%, visitors are encouraged to purchase a timed ticket in advance. During school vacation week, the Simons Theatre will also be open every day. Visitors can visit for ticket information and to learn more about what to expect before arriving at Central Wharf.



Pam Bechtold Snyder –, 617-686-5068