Why are we so excited about this sandstone outcrop?

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Because its not sandstone at al,l but hand carved and fabricated from essentially cement by sculptor and Sand \stone specialist Peter Heiss from “Art of Rock” in Vancouver just finished last week.   This sandstone wall will be habitat for our “hard substrate” aquarium habitat.  One of two large aquariums we are installing to showcase marine life found in Baynes Sound.  We’re so impressed, staff are having a hard time walking by without stopping to admire it every day and we have not even filled it  yet!.

In this aquarium we will be trying to simulate what you might see if you were diving at the iconic Chrome Island Light Station at the southern end of Baynes Sound.  So when Peter and his assistant Azalea came over, we started by going over to Chrome Island and to take a look at the Sandstone,


Peter out on the Chetlo admiring some of the Sandstone at Chrome Island – we got to meet the light keepers that day and had a great visit.  A stickler for accuracy, Peter’s expertise in sandstone is pretty extensive. As described on his website,  Peter gained an early appreciation of aesthetics and the dynamics of form. Fascinated by the natural world, he is an avid diver and has extensively explored the undersea world of the Pacific West Coast and the Hawaiian Islands. Peter is an accomplished painter as well as a sculptor, with a strong affinity for realism and a love of natural subjects. His work is marked by a personal commitment to excellence and meticulous attention to detail. Peter has been sculpting artificial rock since he graduated from the Emily Carr School of Art and Design in 1980.

Peter’s career began as a one of a group of artists hired to sculpt the Vancouver Aquarium’s first major theme exhibit, the Amazon Gallery. By the time the project was complete, Peter’s special talents had been recognized and he was retained by the Vancouver Aquarium to head the design and construction of the rockwork surrounding the Killer Whale Habitat.  A major undertaking, the pool was one of the first to be designed to reflect the natural habitat of the creatures it was to house. The design called for a backdrop of rockwork based on the Gulf Island sandstone formations in the Strait of Georgia

Chrome Island has some pretty neat sandstone as seen here in this photo of Student Emily taking the opportunity for some collecting while we were out.

Collecting - Chrome Island

Another pic of the tank backdrop while it was being made.  First we talked about the objective for the display, what kind of critters would live there and what they would need and then Peter carved a small scale model of exactly what the end result looked like for us to review.

Aquarium backdrop in the making

We think its pretty exciting and that the marine life we are assembling to inhabit it are going to feel right at home. We cant wait to show the finished aquaria to the public.   stay tuned.

November on the Salish sea


2 Responses to “Why are we so excited about this sandstone outcrop?”

  1. Tim Low Says:

    I have known Peter Heiss since the creation of the Amazon Gallery at the Vancouver Aquarium. I was in charge of the live tropical fish exhibits at that time at the Vancouver Aquarium. Dr. Murray Newman was our Director then. We were all taken back by Peter’s talent and attention to detail when he started chipping away at the cement formations that he and the rest of the artistic crew created. Day after day the chipping and carving started. In the beginning it was just hard manual work, but when the initial cement work was done and the detailed carving started..WOW! . We all wanted to see the progress every day and looked forward to the project when it was done. The work Peter and his gang started in 1986 is still alive and well. It is now well blended into as natural an environment with algae and plant growth as the real thing. It would be impossible to tell that it is actual cement work It is simply marvelous!
    Tim Low
    AquaScope Design.

  2. VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station Updates Says:

    […] Our right hand aquarium is meant to represent “hard bottom” habitats such as would be seem off  Denman Island or in particular Chrome Island, the iconic lighthouse island that marks the southern entrance to the Sound.  Artificial sandstone was specially sculpted by artist Peter Hiess for this tank based on the outcrop… […]

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