'Reverence' (Whales Tails) – South Burlington, Vermont - Atlas Obscura

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'Reverence' (Whales Tails)

South Burlington, Vermont

A pair of black granite tails dive into a sea of grass in landlocked Vermont.  


In landlocked Vermont, rising out of a field on the side of the highway, stand two granite whale tails. No trip through Burlington has ever been complete without competing to be the first person to yell “Whale Tails” as they come into view.

Created by Jim Sardonis in 1989, the sculpture is aptly named Reverance—the tails invoke a sort of awe as they stand starkly against the sky in a place where no one would ever expect to see a whale. Sardonis carved the tails from 36 tons of African black granite, and the final pieces stand between 12 and 13 feet tall, and are meant to symbolize the fragility of the planet. Originally located in Randolph, VT, where it was well known for a decade, it was moved to its current location in South Burlington in 1999. Another whales’ tails sculpture, made of bronze, also by Sardonis, (his largest at the time), titled “Whale Dance,” was placed at the original location of “Reverance,” in Randolph, off exit 4 on 1-89 and is even taller than the granite pair, at 16’.

Though today Vermont has no connection to the ocean, that has not always been the case. Fossil evidence shows that the state was underwater more than 300 million years ago, during the Paleozoic Era. About 13,000 years ago, melting glaciers created a vast inland sea that was filled with marine plants and animals. In 1849, workers constructing a railroad between Rutland and Burlington uncovered the skeleton of a beluga whale.

Know Before You Go

Best visible from a car on I-89 North. A walking path winds through the field near the sculptures for those who want a closer look.

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