Roatan Will Soon be the Home of the World’s Biggest Turtle Sculpture
While not everyplace is conducive to dreaming big, Roatan is. For years the island has been attracting more than its share of eccentrics and people thinking outside the box.
Victor Carbajal, 56, is one such visionary. He recalls when a guest teacher visited him at a small school on the mainland and suggested that they do things that are not ordinary. Less than four years ago Victor began doing just that, but it wasn’t easy.
For 24 years Victor worked managing an air conditioning installation business, but his heart was somewhere else. He had taken to heart global warming prognosticators and their apocalyptic visions of rising seas and reef animals taking over what today is land. “Our scientists are telling us this will happen,” he says. Victor is certainly not a climate change skeptic. He not only believes in the rising seas, he has an apocalyptic revelation of the future and is willing to put his money and talent behind it.
Three-and-a-half years ago Victor’s vision began taking shape. For him, the symbol of the apocalypse became the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle (Tortuga Carey). This turtle that can sometime be seen in waters around Roatan and typically grows up to three feet in length, and up to 180 pounds in weight. It is a protected species, especially vulnerable because of its slow growth and slow reproductive rates. Victor’s turtle is 30 times bigger. We didn’t want to copy anyone,” says Victor. Sculptor Fredin Gomez from San Pedro Sula has transformed Victor’s vision into metal and fiberglass.
The Roatan turtle is made using a metal frame and metal wire mesh covered with layers of fiberglass. The 96 foot by 46 foot turtle weighs 18,000 pounds. “It’s a Carey turtle, a female. They have smaller tails and its shell is not quite formed,” says Victor.
“It’s a new experience. Nothing like I’ve done before,” says the turtle building supervisor Rigoberto Carmona. The scale of the turtle is indeed superhuman. It took 35 barrels of fiberglass, each containing 55 gallons, to make the turtle’s shell. The fiberglass will be covered with Polyurethane and then painted. “I didn’t know it would be so difficult,” says Victor. “I’m not too much into detail. If I was to look at everything I would probably not have started it.”
Victor envisions a turtle that would not only be a giant ,but it would also carry a trademarked name: Jumajarawoo. The five syllable name is a composite of words coming from three languages and Victor hopes that, one day, Jumajarawoo will become a Honduran national brand on an international level just like Nike or Puma.
Behind every successful turtle there is a woman. Behind the giant Carey stands Julie Woods, Victor’s wife of eight years and a native islander, who has funded the majority of the project.
Victor follows in the footsteps of many turtle visionaries. Victor’s turtle joins a long tradition of visionary giant turtles . The idea of a gigantic turtle, often referred to as the World Turtle or Cosmic Turtle, is central the traditions of Native Americans and is also present in Hindu and Chinese mythology. As a result it appears in paintings, drawings, and sculptures around the world. A particularly striking rendition of the World Turtle was created in 1599 by Emanuel de Veiga. It depicts a giant turtle supporting the planet.
North Dakotans of XX century took this concept one notch higher. A man in North Dakota built a roadside attraction- a turtle out of 2000 metal wheel rims. It stands 18 feet high and 40 feet long. Another giant turtle, Tommy, was created out of fiberglass by Boots Reynolds in 1978, is 30 feet tall and places the reptile on a snowmobile. Roatan giant turtle could swallow both of these.
In the coming months the North Dakotan’s are about to lose their world largest turtle dominance and the people there can’t be happy.
By summer Victor plans to have the turtle cut into pieces and then lifted onto a nearby three story building he owns. Victor hopes that seeing animals on his West End shopping center will make people change their behavior.