Legal Sea Food’s Scientific Fish

This is the fourteenth post in my series on Boston’s animal statues. 

This codfish, known as the “flying fish,” lives atop the headquarters of Legal Seafood just off Seafood Way in South Boston. An abstract piece designed and constructed by sculptor and lighting designer David Tonnesen, he is 28 feet tall and 45 feet long—by far the city’s biggest animal sculpture. Everyone knows that Boston is big on fish. But you may not have seen Legal Sea Foods‘ big fish in the Seaport—or understand the service he provides for the harbor’s nautical traffic. Like the carved icon in the State House, he’s a codfish, but of a size and stature unmatched by most of the animal statues in Boston’s bronze menagerie. And he has the wind in his eye.

Legal Sea Foods Flying Fish

This codfish, known as the “flying fish,” lives above the headquarters of Legal Seafoods just off Seafood Way in South Boston. An abstract piece designed and constructed by sculptor and lighting designer David Tonnesen, he is 28 feet tall and 45 feet long—the biggest animal sculpture I have written about so far.

But the flying fish doesn’t just sit there he has a job to do. Although this is cleverly disguised, the codfish is also a scientific instrument that boaters can consult for information about wind speed and direction. His eight scales are “freewheeling rotors that move in response to prevailing currents of wind direction.” In essence, they combine the functions of an anemometer and a weathervane.

But the flying fish doesn’t just occupy the roof; he has a job to do. Although this is cleverly disguised, the codfish is also a scientific instrument that boaters can consult for information about wind speed and direction. His eight scales are “freewheeling rotors that move in response to prevailing currents of wind direction.” In essence, they combine the functions of anemometers and weathervanes.

Legal Seafood’s codfish in good weather and bad

But wait, there’s more. The fish’s 30-inch eye changes color according to wind speed using the Marine Beaufort Scale, which rates wind speed from one (calm) to twelve (hurricane).

Sculptor David Tonnesen

David Tonnesen has a studio in Somerville and pieces of public art in other states. HIs work includes  the metal tree outside Eat Restaurant in Union Square on which a trumpet vine is recovering after being taken down by a storm five years ago.

Mr. Tonnesen has a design philosophy behind has works:

“I design and fabricate site-specific sculpture and lighting for private and public clients. My inspiration comes from my wonder of the natural world, its physical beauty and the forces driving it. I distill and abstract organic forms bringing them to life through kinetic motion, the glow of light and color, or implied motion and grace of the sculpture’s gentle curving forms.”

Directions and Information

The flying fish with the wind in his eye above Legal Sea Foods’ headquarters can be seen from the street but is not easy to spot from the water. Small boats can get up close, though, for a good view of the giant cod and a reading on wind speed and direction.

You can take the Silver Line to the stop at 306 Northern Avenue and walk toward the water. Parking is available at a variety of private lots in the Seaport District, or though a valet at any of the numerous restaurants on Northern Avenue and Seaport Boulevard, including Legal Harborside at 270 Northern Avenue. If you’re attending any of the numerous concerts and events at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, you can take a quick walk over to visit the flying fish.

You can take the Silver Line to the stop at 306 Northern Avenue and walk toward the water. Parking is available at a variety of private lots in the Seaport District. Make a day of it and have lunch at any of the numerous restaurants on Northern Avenue and Seaport Boulevard, including Legal Harborside at 270 Northern Avenue — and use use the valet parking. If you’re attending any of the numerous concerts and events at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, just take a quick walk over to visit the flying fish and check out the wind speed. Look him right in the eye.

Boston’s Bronze Menagerie Series

  1. Boston’s Bronze Rhinos
  2. Boston’s Animal Statues: Codfish
  3. Boston’s Horses: Paint and Henry
  4. Boston’s Bronze Teddy Bear
  5. Boston’s Kensington Lions
  6. Boston’s Political Animals: Democratic Donkey
  7. Boston’s Political Animals: Jumbo the Elephant
  8. The Fenway’s Pronghorn Antelope
  9. The Lotta Fountain
  10. The Tortoise and the Hare and the Boston Marathon
  11. Cats and Dogs on Huntington Avenue
  12. Make Way for Ducklings Statue
  13. The Frog Pond’s Whimsical Frogs

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