Visitors to Keelung City Harbor were flabbergasted yesterday afternoon, when the giant Rubber Duck installation suddenly burst and deflated, just 11 days after it went on display.
While Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai (黃景泰), who is in charge of the event, and the company that manufactured the Rubber Duck were still investigating what caused the mishap, a female tourist at the scene said she saw what looked like an eagle scratch the 18m tall Rubber Duck with its talons.
Local residents confirmed that eagles were seen flocking around the harbor in the past few days, with some officials saying that it was possible that an eagle’s talons had scraped the duck’s surface and made a small tear, which led to the burst.
However, Central Weather Bureau meteorologist Cheng Ming-tien (鄭明典) said that yesterday’s warm sunshine might have caused it.
Yesterday’s blazing sun, after weeks of cold, rainy conditions, heated up the air inside the duck to become hotter than the exterior, and the sudden change in temperature and pressure probably caused it to rupture, he said.
“We want to apologize to the fans of the yellow rubber duck. ... the weather is fine today and we haven’t found the cause of the burst. We will carefully examine the duck to determine the cause,” Huang said.
Keelung City officials initially said they would borrow a giant duck replacement from Greater Kaohsiung, which was the first local government to host the giant duck.
The officials later retracted the decision and announced that they would borrow another copy of the floating art installation that is under production by a company authorized by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, creator of the giant Rubber Duck, for its next showing in another country.
The replacement is to be installed in Keelung Harbor by Saturday at the earliest, the city officials said.
Keelung’s Rubber Duck is not the first one to rupture while on display in northern Taiwan.
In early November, another near-identical sculpture from the same series burst in Taoyuan County and had to be replaced by another Rubber Duck on loan from Greater Kaohsiung.
In the industrial and busy Keelung Port, the recently deceased duck has endured controversy since it was unveiled to the public on Dec. 21.
A dispute over copyrights involving merchandise sold by local vendors erupted even before that, leading Hofman to decry the Keelung event as a “commercial circus.”
Hofman, who had enthusiastically attended the premieres in Greater Kaohsiung and Taoyuan, was absent from the duck’s opening day in Keelung.
The duck was later noticeably blackened by pollution from ships passing through the industrial area, leaving organizers scratching their heads for several days as to how to clean it.
Additional reporting by Yu Shao-fu and AFP