Australians have been fascinated by “Big Things” since the 1960s, when statues such as Adelaide’s Big Scotsman and the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour were opened to great fanfare. Fast-forward to the present day and Australia has a ‘big’ problem – just what are we supposed to do with all these ageing super-sized statues?
"Big" tourist-friendly structures can be found in other countries, too. The United States is known for its Big Donut, Canada has the world’s largest fiddle, but the attachment to Big Things Down Under has an almost patriotic quality.
Many will recall childhood road trips punctuated by such highlights as a giant Merino sheep or a towering rocking horse, or an assortment of fruits – the Big Avocado, the Big Orange and the Big Mango. When the latter was reported “missing” in 2014, the news made national headlines, only to be later revealed as a publicity stunt.
Residents of Bowen in north Queensland awoke to a shock this morning. the 10-metre tall tourist attraction known as the 'Big Mango' has mysteriously disappeared. Police suspect pranksters for the overnight heist although we wouldn't rule out peckish UFO pilots either. Whatever the cause, there's now one less 'big thing' to take photos of in Australia. Thankfully, there are still plenty of over-sized tourist attractions to gawp at should the mood strike you.
But in a nation now littered with at least 200 Big Things, there is a sizeable problem. What to do with them as they age and wear out? Many Big Things were built cheaply from concrete and fibreglass – materials that inevitably fade and decay.
Some structures — such as the Big Pineapple, the Big Macadamia Nut, the Big Orange and the Big Prawn — have, in recent times, either fallen into disrepair or struggled to bring in much income. Then there are others, such as Cairns’s Big Captain Cook, which invite controversy.
The Big Captain Cook stands in a vacant lot on the side of the Cook Highway; its legs show signs of concrete cancer and its paint job is flaky. The hotel that once accompanied Cook is long demolished, and the local community is divided over the appropriate fate of its landmark.
Should he be repainted, or dismantled, or relocated to a place such as James Cook University where, in 2006, students petitioned for his adoption? (Since the university is named after Cook, they thought it would be a good match.) Earlier this year, he was draped with a large Sorry sign to coincide with Australia Day. Indigenous artist Munganbana Norman Miller has proposed the Cook statue be given a Big Boomerang to hold.
From the Big Banana to the Big Stockwhip to the Big Tennis Racquet, Australia has made building giant objects as tourist attractions a major national pastime. We've gathered together all of Australia's 'big things' on a single map so you can check out giant objects near and far.
Then there is South Australia’s “Larry” the Lobster. Created in 1979, the 17-metre fibreglass crustacean has been on the market intermittently since the late 1980s and reportedly needed repairs. The state government offered A$10,000 to help in late 2015.
The Lobster was recently the subject of a nationwide fundraising campaign #PinchAMate led by radio hosts Hamish and Andy. Earlier this month, Larry, who comes with a restaurant attached, failed to draw a bid at auction. But its owners said they were still hopeful of selling Larry, which recently had a A$50,000-plus makeover.