Imagine strolling along the Seine river in Paris, hand-in-hand with a partner when all of a sudden, you glimpse a beached whale stranded on the shore. Without a doubt, the scene would inspire distress. However, this is exactly the reaction the Captain Boomer Collective was on a mission to evoke. You see, the 17-meter (55-foot) “whale” isn’t actually a marine mammal; rather, it is an art installation which was installed overnight to raise awareness about humanity’s detrimental impact on the environment.

beached whale, Paris, France, art installation, Captain Boomer Collective, environment, wildlife, activism,

The Belgian artist collective installed the whale along the Seine river overnight. It’s unnervingly realistic – and they event went so far as to simulate the smell of a dead sperm whale. In the morning they cordoned the whale off from the public while “forensic scientists” set about studying it.

The team wrote on their website, “We place the statue on the beach during the night and prepare bleeding and smell. In the morning the carcass is fenced, to keep people at a distance. We create of circle of about seven meters around the statue. Within this perimeter, the beaching is a true fact. The actors within the fence never drop their cover. They are scientific and official figures of a fictitious organization, the North Sea Whale Association.”

Understandably, members of the public believed it to be real upon first viewing it. One Paris resident told the press, “It makes me very sad because for an animal like this to leave the Atlantic to end up here means that there is a problem […] I think it might be our fault.”

beached whale, Paris, France, art installation, Captain Boomer Collective, environment, wildlife, activism,

Related: 337 whales beached in largest stranding event ever – and no one knows why

The Mirror reports that the project ultimately aims to raise awareness about humanity’s impact on the environment, including the fact that humans are adversely affecting wildlife with plastic pollution and are overfishing the oceans. Additionally, the team sought to raise awareness about the sperm whale, which is now classified as a vulnerable species due to the impact of commercial whaling.

While it is unlikely a sperm whale would ever make it way up the Seine river, the installation isn’t too far off in its depiction – whales are regularly found beached in the North Sea, as IFLScience points out. In fact, Rob Deaville, the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme project manager, says that during a regular year, it is not uncommon for at least two to five sperm whales to strand themselves in the UK alone. Hopefully, this project gives humanity the abrupt wake-up call it needs.

+ Captain Boomer Collective

Via IFLScience, The Mirror

Images via Stéphanie Basquin, Julien Kerduff