Route 66: Build your own giant Blue Whale

Part 3 of the Geek's Guide to Route 66 finds our intrepid traveler descending into the belly of a big Blue Whale in Catoosa, Okla. Will she emerge alive?

Blue Whale
Oh look, there's a giant whale in the middle of Oklahoma. Amanda Kooser/CNET

CATOOSA, Okla.--There's a big Blue Whale in a small lake in Catoosa, Okla., on Route 66. It's an unexpected sight as you come over a rising bend in the road. I had heard there was a whale here, but the scale of the beast is enough to make Captain Ahab think twice about his life's mission. It's 80 feet long and 15 feet high.

Clearly, the Blue Whale didn't just wander inland from the ocean. Someone put it here. It's a maker project on a scale maker projects don't usually achieve. If Make Magazine had existed back in the '70s, the Blue Whale would have been a centerfold model.

In the spirit of DIY, I'm going to help makers prep their own whales. Here is your materials list:

2,650 feet of sucker rod
1,179 feet of 2-inch steel pipe
100 feet of 1-inch pipe
2,520 square feet of plaster lath
126 bags of concrete mix
19.5 square yards of Redi-Mix concrete
19,400 pounds of crushed stone
15 tons of sand
2,454 linear feet of wood
20 pounds of nails
Assorted tubing and valves

If you can find a hardware store that hasn't changed prices since the '70s, the material costs should work out to less than $3,000. You will also need to find a friend willing to donate 100 hours of welding time. Assuming you want to follow the original build timeline, it will only take you two years of work to assemble your own Blue Whale.

inside the Blue Whale
So this is what Jonah must have felt like. Amanda Kooser/CNET

Mr. Hugh Davis, the make master behind the whale, spent 2,920 hours on the build between 1970 and 1972. There are some lovely rumors floating around the Internet that he built the whale as a wedding present for his wife. That's really cool, but it's also not true. The whale became part of a water park. You can still see the remnants of other attractions in the form of docks and ladders that are slowly being reclaimed by the lake.

Related links
• Geek's guide to Route 66, part 1
• Cadillac Ranch: Texas-size lawn ornaments

I got the materials list from the Blue Whale itself (we're friends on Facebook). I sent in a query and it told me it would e-mail me the information as soon as it got home. I like to think the Blue Whale periodically rises up out of its pond and rolls into town to run errands like picking up Whale Chow or shopping for a new baseball hat. After you spend hour after hour driving down the rotating landscape of Route 66, you start imagining things.

Enjoy the video below of a journey into the belly of the whale. I shot it on the iPad 2. The mini-flick was edited right on the iPad with iMovie. In my experience, iMovie for iOS is an intuitive, if somewhat limited, program. It's so intuitive that I have to keep finding online tutorials to figure out all the swiping and cutting commands. It's a quick and dirty way to get a video up online, though, so I'm not grousing too much.

Next up on the Geek's Guide to Route 66 is a detour off the path to Cardondale, Ill. I heard there is a Dungeons & Dragons-themed park there, and I'm going to investigate.

 

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