Do not adjust your computer screen. No, the Blue Whale has not died, so you’re not seeing a ghost. And the Blue Whale hasn’t turned pale because he saw a giant harpoon.
But the Route 66 landmark in Catoosa, Okla., is undergoing an extensive repair and repaint job by Bill Haynes Co. of nearby Tulsa. The Blue Whale has turned white because the company has applied a primer coat before returning it to its normal color.
The Blue Whale, last repaired about 15 years ago, had developed cracks in its concrete. It became iffy whether the blue behemoth, which has graced Route 66 since 1970, would survive another winter of punishing ice and snow.
When I visited the Blue Whale on Tuesday evening, the mouth of the Blue Whale was barricaded to allow the primer coat to dry. Otherwise, the rest of the grounds remained accessible.
Blaine Davis, longtime caretaker of the Blue Whale and son of its creator Hugh Davis, said Bill Haynes Co. had offered to repair and repaint the roadside attraction for free. In return, the company would use the Blue Whale’s image in its advertising for a three-year period.
Haynes started its work at a good time — a summer-long drought has lowered the pond’s water level, allowing the company to paint more of the Blue Whale’s surface.
The company is expected to be finished by the end of the week.
The Bill Haynes Co. also recently repaired and repainted the iconic Golden Driller of Tulsa.
Haynes is using the UltraCoating system, which provides a lot of flexible protection from heat, cold and precipitation. Davis says the company expects the new coating to last 35 years.
The roof of the Blue Whale’s bathrooms is getting a new coat of paint as well.
UPDATE 9/6/2011: KOTV in Tulsa filed a report about the Blue Whale’s renovation. According to the report, the wooden deck will be refurbished next. And there’s this little item:
The Blue Whale will undergo a mini-makeover in late October when an elaborate lighting system will turn it pink in honor of breast cancer awareness and Blaine’s sister, who died of the disease in 2006.
UPDATE 9/26/2011: A story about the whale’s restoration by the Tulsa World.