A $170,000 hot air balloon called the Skywhale has been unveiled to mark Canberra's centenary. At 34 metres long and weighing half a tonne, it is at least twice as large as a standard hot-air balloon.
It took 16 people seven months to make, using more than 3.5 kilometres of fabric and 3.3 million stitches. It can carry a pilot plus two passengers to an altitude of 3,000 feet. But Canberrans are divided over the balloon's design, expressing both dismay and delight. Artist Patricia Piccinini says her inspiration came from the wonder of nature.
"My question is what if evolution went a different way and instead of going back into the sea, from which they came originally, they went into the air and we evolved a nature that could fly instead of swim," she said. "In fact coming from a place like Canberra where it's a planned city that's really tried to integrate and blend in with the natural environment, it makes a lot of sense to make this sort of huge, gigantic, but artificial and natural looking creature."
Ms Piccinini says she understands the artwork will challenge public opinion. "I think that's confounding for people because they don't know what the creature is, but secondly they don't know if it's an artwork or what it's trying to do," she said. Ms Piccinini says the large breasts reflect how whales are mammals and breast-feed their young.