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Te Paea Tohora

Inspired by graphic photography of Farewell Spit strandings inside the observatory space, Te Paea Tohora The Stranded Whale is a design project that focuses on the event of whale strandings in New Zealand. This project not only explores and addresses Industrial Design principles, but also acknowledges cultural differences and embraces these to forge a practical and culturally significant product.

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Nga Aho practitioner:
Jamaine Fraser

Te Paea Tohora

New Zealand is one of the most common countries in the world for whale strandings, “On average, more than 300 hundred whales and dolphins strand on our shores each year” (Project Jonah, 2008). Frequently Long-Finned Pilot whales strand, at times in the hundreds, creating many issues. A mass stranding of these proportions is physically demanding for both whale and the people attending the stranding, some of which find the event very emotional too.


In the past and still today, people are using mundane house hold products (e.g. buckets, cotton sheets, shovels e.t.c) as well as industrial equipment to assist to comfort and re-float the whale.


A key issue for the whale’s survival is regulating the temperature of the stranded whale, keeping it cool and moist. In New Zealand whales are commonly known to strand in the summer season. This makes the task of keeping the stranded whale cool, demanding. The natural breeze/wind of Tawhirimatia (God of the winds) and heat from the Tamanui Te Ra (sun) are contributing factors in drying out and literally cooking the stranded mammal inside out.


The ‘Korowai O Tangaroa’ - meaning the cloak of Tangaroa (God of the sea of Maori mythology) is essentially a sophisticated cover that helps keep the whale cool and moist. The cover is made of Polyrug Tearstop LoomstateTM cloth and inside the Maori designs is Polyacrylamide crystals. It is these crystals which are able to absorb water, and hold the cooling properties for hours or even days. This limits the peoples’ effort of constant hydration by other manual means and allowing the supervising people of the mammal to keep it company for longer periods; company, in the sense of talking, singing and karakia. The Korowai O Tangaroa can be seen as Tangaroa’s protection for is Tohora (whales) from Tawhirimatia and Tamanui Te Ra.

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