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Morden unveils giant turtle sculpture

Lauren MacGill

MORDEN - 

If you’ve driven past the western most part of Morden, you may have noticed a new sculpture on the side of the road.

On August 25, to kick off Corn and Apple 2017, Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre officially welcomed their new archelon turtle statue to Morden.
The turtle sculpture bookends the city with the sculpture of Bruce the mosasaur welcoming visitors from the east.

“After we unveiled Bruce it became apparent that the appetite for these kinds of things was pretty strong,” CFDC executive director Peter Cantelon said. “We had a lot of positive feedback about the sculpture and the idea of bringing the museum into the public space so we can offer something of an educational experience as well as a tourism opportunity.”

Part of the reason for creating a new giant sculpture was to draw people to Morden. “The more we can attract people into Morden, the more likely it is we’ll be able to educate them and get them into the museum and businesses throughout the community,” Cantelon said. “I think what happened was [that] it snowballed into an opportunity to really start transforming Morden into the tourism destination that we know that it is, but to do it in a way that wasn’t goofy or cartoonish. Do it in a scientifically accurate way but still not be boring.”

The turtle was sculpted over a three-month period by Morden resident Adolfo Cuetara, who moved from Spain two years ago. Cuetara donated his time to put together the life-sized archelon.

“I started to work on different museum [pieces] a couple of years ago,” Cuetara said. “Last year I told [Cantelon] that I would like to make some kind of sculpture in my spare time. After some consideration, he proposed making a giant turtle because they have bones of the turtle in the museum.”

Cuetara has also given his time at CFDC and donated several displays to the museum.

“For me it’s amazing,” Cuetara said. “I enjoy making [things] from scratch. I am glad to make this for the city.”

Cuetara hopes to make a couple more sculptures for the city next year.

“I believe there are only a handful of people on the planet who have the skillset to act on their own to take an idea like this from conception to completion,” Cantelon said. “[Cuetara] is such a rare gift to our community, and certainly to the museum. It’s hard to underplay the significance of his contributions.”

The archelon ischyros was the largest species of turtle to exist, and it inhabited the seas that covered Morden and much of southern Manitoba. CFDC has several archelon fossils in their collection, which were excavated near Morden.

The archelon was also chosen for its size. “It’s huge, you can see it significantly,” Cantelon said. “It’s got an impact on people when they drive by. We want to keep doing this kind of thing as long as we can.”

The sculpture has not been named yet, and CFDC wants to leave that up to the public. Anyone with a suggestion can email it to info@discoverfossils.com.

On October 1 the top five names will be posted on both the City of Morden and CFDC websites. The winner of the popular vote will be the sculpture’s new name.